On Wednesday, the Mariners left the Angels pitching staff dead on the field and motored up the coast to visit the defending division champion, Oakland Athletics. They learned, to their chagrin that things won’t be quite so easy as they had it in Anaheim. The Athletics, nursing along their own pitching injuries, showed the depth of their staff in defeating the M’s 3-2 in twelve innings.
The Mariners started rookie left-hander Roenis Elias, and despite some first inning nerves in which he threw 26 painful-to-watch pitches, he hung in there through five innings. He watched his teammates scratch out two runs.
In the first inning Abraham Almonte reached on an error by first baseman Alberto Callaspo. In a move right out of the movies, he goaded second baseman Nick Punto into making an ill-advised throw, Almonte advancing to second. The center fielder took third on Brad Miller’s sacrifice fly, and scored on Robinson Cano’s ground out. Mariners lead 1-0.
The M’s scored their second run in the fifth inning when Logan Morrison singled to lead off. He was followed by with a Dustin Ackley single, pushing Morrison around to third. Mike Zunino flied up, bringing up Almonte who also singled. This scored Morrison, chased Ackley to third, and Almonte took second on the throw. In one of the weirder plays of the game and the season so far, Brad Miller grounded a ball to Punto, who threw out Miller, but an unforced Almonte was running on the play. With two guys on third, Ackley was forced to break for home and was easily tagged out to end the inning. Mariners lead 2-0 and a lost opportunity
That would be it for the M’s as first starter Jesse Chavez and later the A’s bullpen would hold them in check the rest of the way.
The A’s got on the board in their half of the fifth. With two outs Punto singled and stole second. With Sam Fuld batting, Elias had a two strike count and seemed to have him struck out on an awesome breaking pitch. But umpire Sean Barber said no. Visibly upset, Elias tried again. Instead Fuld hit a line drive in the gap Almonte seemed to break in on rather than cut off. His diving try missed and the ball rolled to the wall. Morrison retrieved it and fired it to Cano the cut off man. Cano fired a strike home to nail Fuld at the plate. Mariners lead 2-1.
With the Elias distracted by Barber’s uncertain strike zone, and wait to rule on the play at the plate on Fuld, the manager Lloyd McClendon elected to give Elias the hook. His five innings included three walks, two in the first inning, and three strikeouts. The A’s managed only two hits against the the young Cuban, and those didn’t come until things fell apart in the fifth.
After the fifth it was the Mariners bullpen holding the fort. But it was not a good night for them. It could be Barber’s forever changing strike zone, but the A’s pitchers didn’t seem to have a problem with it. The A’s scored in the bottom of the eighth to tie, and both teams held firm to send the game into extra innings. In the twelfth the M’s sent in Hector Noesi to pitch to Coco Crisp and on the first pitch Crisp homered to send the fans home happy.
- Much has been made of Barber’s pitch calling. It was bad, but he umpired for both teams. He’s not the reason this game was lost.
- Mariners pitchers walked ten batters. The relievers walked seven. Compares pretty similarly with the Angels relievers. Don’t walk guys. By comparison, the A’s walked three, their relievers only one, Barber or no Barber.
- Last night there was an Almonte problem. I believe in playing aggressively and it’s clear Abe is all about that. But you have to play smart too. Running up Ackley’s back in the fifth may have cost the Mariners more scores. His play on Fuld’s ball was poor judgment. He’s young and will make mistakes, but in a tight game those can be costly.
- The Mariners hitters just learned what a good pitching staff looks like. It will be interesting to see how the rest of this series goes. Last year the M’s showed they could really trash bad pitching. They also smacked the A’s around in the season series 11-8. But the M’s managed only one hit and a walk against the A’s bullpen last night. Let’s see if it’s just one night or if the A’s pitching is so good the M’s can do absolutely nothing with it for the next three games.
So the perfect season came to an end. Definitely a tough game the Mariners need to be a little better at. The bullpen especially needs to get better at locking down the game. The great thing is they don’t have to wait a week to try it again. Same time, same place tonight.
Interesting news out of Marinerland today. Hector Noesi was DFA’d and Dominic Leone was called up to the big club from Tacoma.