OAKLAND, Calif. — After three days of drama and failure — something that figures to be a problem in the games to come — the Mariners did their best to remove the possibility of a bullpen meltdown for the fourth consecutive game.
Marco Gonzales delivered his best outing in recent weeks to limit the usage of the bullpen while the Mariners’ offense provided more than enough run support in a 9-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
“Oftentimes the biggest weapon your bullpen can have is a really good offense that keeps adding on and keeps giving you some cushion,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “That’s what we saw tonight. It’s not going to happen every night. But giving those guys a breather, it’s big. But tomorrow night’s game will probably be tight, and they’ll be back out there.”
Two-run homers from Omar Narvaez (seventh inning) and Mallex Smith (eighth inning) provided a lead that seemed bullpen proof … well, if you forget that the bullpen gave up nine runs in two innings just a day earlier. The Mariners had 10 hits, including five for extra bases.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak against the A’s. The Mariners have two chances to win their second three-game series since early April.
Gonzales wasn’t dominant, but he was effective and got better in the later innings. He pitched seven innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts on 115 pitches to improve to 7-6. The Mariners have picked up wins in his last two starts after losing games in seven consecutive Gonzales starts from May 1 to June 2. Of Gonzales’ eight quality starts this season, six have come on the road. His road ERA is 2.77, compared with a 6.53 ERA at home.
“Marco got into nice groove,” Servais said. “They were on him early, and he struggled to get command of his secondary pitches. Really nice job to go that deep. We certainly stretched him pitch-count wise. He can handle it. Marco’s in great shape, but we probably wouldn’t want to do that every time out there.”
The Mariners needed just two relievers. Right-hander Austin Adams worked around a leadoff walk to pitch a scoreless eighth inning, and Matt Festa worked a scoreless ninth that wasn’t close to clean as he loaded the bases with one out, but he came back to retire the next two batters to end the game.
“We face each other a lot, and I think they know what they are looking for off me,” Gonzales said. “They were just kind of waiting for their pitch. We went right after them. “
Gonzales found himself in trouble in the first inning. With one out and a runner on first, Matt Chapman singled and Khris Davis walked to load the bases. But he got platoon specialist Chad Pinder to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. That double play changed the entire complexion of his start.
“The biggest part of that inning is not getting out of our approach of trying to get ground balls,” Gonzales said. “The first two hits were ground balls through the six hole, and I knew a double play was coming because we were making the right pitches. Just try to make the right pitches. That double play can change your whole start.”
The A’s picked up their first run in the second inning. With two outs, Jurickson Profar doubled and scored when Daniel Vogelbach couldn’t scoop Dee Gordon’s one-hop throw to first base on a tough ground ball up the middle.
The Mariners answered with a run in the top of the third. Gordon led off with a hustling double off A’s starter Chris Bassitt and scored on Kyle Seager’s sac fly to left field.
Oakland grabbed its last lead of the game in the third inning when Matt Chapman hit a one-out triple to left field that was just out of the reach of a leaping Mac Williamson. Gonzales looked like he might escape the inning without allowing a run, but Matt Olson lined a 3-2 single with two outs into right field to make it 2-1.
But the Mariners took the lead for good in the fourth inning. They were able to load the bases with no outs when Marcus Semien dropped a routine double play turn at second. Activated from the injured list earlier in the day, shortstop J.P. Crawford pulled a one hopper just past Olson for a two-run double. Gordon followed with a sac fly to make it 4-2.
“It’s a relief,” Crawford said. “I was just happy to be back out there tonight with my boys, my teammates.”
Given a lead, Gonzales allowed just one base runner over the next four innings, finding a rhythm and generating plenty of soft contact from off-balance A’s hitters.
The Mariners tacked on two more runs in the seventh on Narvaez’s two-run homer to right field off lefty Wei-Chung Wang. It was Narvaez’s 10th homer of the season — a career high.
Smith gave the Mariners’ bullpen some extra cushion with a two-run homer in the ninth. It was his fourth of the season.
Crawford added an RBI double off the wall in deep left-center in the ninth.
“He was on everything tonight,” Servais said. “His swings were good. The big thing about J.P. is he’s using the whole field. We saw some stuff early in spring training where he was pulling a lot of balls, not so much lately.”