For most of the night this game had that playing-out-the-string feeling to it. Trevor Cahill was having another one of those Houdini-like outings until Ken Griffey Jr. touched him up for a three-run homer in the fifth that gave the Mariners a comfortable 6-1 cushion behind another solid outing by Felix Hernandez, though Oakland would make it interesting late by having chances to tie the game in each of the last two innings before falling by a count of 6-4.
In doing so the A's dropped to 75-82, thus ending their unlikely but entertaining quest to somehow reach .500 by the end of the season, and it assured a last-place finish for the first time since 1998. If the current standings of LAA-TEX-SEA-OAK stays the same (TEX and SEA could still switch places), it will be the first time that has happened since going to the three-division format.
If it's any consolation, the A's DO have the best record of any last-place team and trail their division leader by the least games in comparison to the rest. Put it this way: it took them until game 157 to be assured of last place after how bad things looked earlier in the year. Hey, it's SOMEthing. In spite of that it doesn't seem as bad as that looks as they've played solid baseball in the latter half of the season. The important thing will be seeing how much of it carries over into 2010.
Cahill was unable to get through the fifth tonight, allowing five earned runs on eight hits and two walks with just one strikeout. In comparison, Hernandez threw a season-high 120 pitches and nearly got through eight innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with four walks, plus he hit two batters. He wasn't his usual overpowering self, evidenced by only four strikeouts. Sometimes he gets that in two innings. He needed Mark Lowe to bail him out of trouble in the eighth and David Aardsma gave up a couple runs in the ninth on a Kurt Suzuki double before retiring Daric Barton on a fly ball to Ichiro Suzuki that, for the briefest of moments, looked like it might just have a chance to tie things up. Somehow Eric Patterson went 3-for-3 with a walk against Hernandez. I won't try to figure that one out and I suggest you don't either.
A few more things:
* Travis Buck got into the game, had two ABs, AND singled and scored a run.
* we expect full details soon from Chez Nico. It's not Vegas, so what happens there shall be known by all.
* the game threads are not safe for anyone except those of strong composition and/or questionable mental states. Wade in at your own peril. Now, those ARE Vegas as far as we're concerned.
* we've learned what a few of the A's rookies wound up in during this year's hazing ritual. Photos must exist somewhere. They will be found by someone.
* this is my last game thread of the season. It was fun. In the words of Denis Leary, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, and..." Wait. Not the game thread. My bad. Go A's in 2010!