The Mariners were hanging on to contention around this time last year, just 5 ½ games back of the AL West lead on Aug. 9...
The Mariners were hanging on to contention around this time last year, just 5 ½ games back of the AL West lead on Aug. 9.
Of course, that was before they imploded on the ensuing road trip, losing all 11 games to division foes Texas, Oakland and Los Angeles — the same trio of squads Seattle is in a stretch of games against.
The Mariners better hope history isn’t repeating itself.
Seattle lost its seventh consecutive game Thursday, 6-2 to Oakland in front of 34,250 at Safeco Field, wasting some sharp defensive gems and a quality start by the much-maligned Jeff Weaver.
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Weaver (2-9) went 7-1/3 innings for the loss, giving up three runs on seven hits and surviving two rocky frames that threatened to unravel his start faster than a cheap sweater on the club’s annual Stitch ‘n Pitch promotion night.
“Weave pitched his tail off,” said reliever J.J. Putz in the muted clubhouse afterward. “It’s just one of these things when you hit a cycle like this, it’s vicious. We’re just going to have to fight our way out of it.”
The Mariners had lost four straight by one run, and this one looked destined to be the fifth with the A’s up 3-2 in the ninth. But Nick Swisher crushed a three-run cushion off the left-field foul pole.
The grind is wearing the Mariners thin.
“Right now, everything’s so magnified,” Putz said, “that every pitch, every at-bat, every throw you make across the infield is such a big, big play. It’s tough to play that way for nine innings, every single day.”
The loss dropped Seattle (54-46) four games behind idle division leader Los Angeles. The Mariners also lost a chance to pick up ground on wild-card leader Cleveland, which lost 14-9 to Boston.
It wasn’t the result the Mariners had hoped for, especially coming home after being swept at Texas. Manager John McLaren had even talked pregame about how happy he was just to be breathing the Seattle air.
The Mariners had responded to two previous six-game losing streaks with big bunches of wins: seven wins in eight games in the first stretch in April, then 10 of 11 in another run in June.
Not this time. Not against Oakland ace Dan Haren, who came into the game sporting an 11-3 record and a league-best 2.41 earned-run average this season. Haren also had the AL’s lowest opponents’ batting average (.211), on-base percentage (.264) and slugging percentage (.331).
The Mariners managed just two runs — on a Richie Sexson solo home run, his 17th, to lead off the second inning, and an Adrian Beltre RBI single in the fifth that scored Yuniesky Betancourt. Beltre also hit his team-best 27th double in the bottom of the first.
Designated hitter Jose Vidro, in his second consecutive start in the fifth spot in the batting order, went 0 for 4, stranding four runners on base, including three in scoring position. In his last two games, he has stranded eight.
Vidro did threaten to tie the score 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth, but a deep fly ball off reliever Santiago Casilla landed just short of the wall on the right-field warning track.
Haren (12-3) pitched seven innings, giving up two runs on seven hits and striking out seven.
“We’re having trouble scoring runs, and we’re doing what we can to try to rectify that,” McLaren said. “I think we’re fine, to be honest with you. We got good spirit on the bench. We need to get a win.”
Meanwhile, Oakland’s offensive futility could be summed up by some dismal numbers: a major-league worst .227 batting average in July; 429 runs, the fewest in the A.L.; and a major-league-worst 98 double plays this season.
Which all translated into a 4-9 record since the All-Star break, tied for worst in the league.
But the A’s conjured up enough magic against the Mariners, going up 1-0 in the top of the first on three straight one-out singles, the last a lazy line drive to left by Mike Piazza that scored Swisher.
Mark Ellis led off the second with his 12th homer of the year, which crashed into the A’s bullpen and made it 2-0. Swisher pounded another Weaver offering into the right-field bleachers in the top of the fifth for Oakland’s third run.
Swisher’s second bomb, off George Sherrill, marked the first run Sherrill had given up at home this year, a stretch of 15 innings in 24 games.
The early damage could have been worse except for some excellent defensive plays by the Mariners. A nifty 3-6-1 twin killing ended the first inning, starting with an elegant Richie Sexson pirouette and concluding with Weaver hustling to first base to receive the relay from Betancourt.
In the top of the third, Weaver reached behind his ankles while jumping on the mound to stab a broken-bat grounder from Mike Piazza. Weaver flipped the ball to himself and threw out the A’s designated hitter.
In the top of the fourth, Weaver kick-saved another grounder, retrieving the ball and throwing out Kotsay. Later that inning, Ichiro ran full tilt with his back to home plate, and leaped toward the wall to snag Marco Scutaro’s deep fly ball.
Michael Ko: 206-515-5653 or firstname.lastname@example.org