Game #33: Mariners pull away 9th, win second straight in Oakland

Thearon W. Henderson

A lot happened in tonight's game, and it was a close one, a reality that the final score of 8-3 belies. If you were watching on television, Shooty Babitt picked up where he left off in his tirade on how the defensive shift is ruining baseball; more importantly, he blessed his viewers with a brief rendition R. Kelly's Bump N' Grind. Jesse Chavez had a near-death experience, Yoenis Cespedes hit a home run on an 80 mph despite making merely decent contact, and Jim Johnson imploded in the 9th inning. For the third time this year, he was booed off the field by his own fans.

Despite never leading, Oakland was in it until the top of the 9th inning, when Johnson gave up four runs to allow Seattle to build its commanding five-run lead. It's worth noting that none of the runs were earned. It's also worth noting, given that the reasoning behind differentiating between earned and unearned runs is partially designed to avoid penalizing a pitcher for an error he didn't make, that it was Johnson who made the costly error, a poor throw on a Michael Saunders sacrifice bunt that bounced into right field and put runners at 2nd and 3rd with none out.

Already leading by one, Seattle didn't let the opportunity slip away. After striking out James Jones, the A's wisely decided to walk Robinson Cano. The move came very close to paying off, but Oakland couldn't spin a Corey Hart grounder quite fast enough, allowing Brad Miller to score. Still not the end of the world — the A's have certainly come back from two-run deficits in the 9th.

But then Justin Smoak singled, and Kyle Seager doubled, and just like that Jim Johnson was walking off the field with the boos raining down and his team trailing by five runs.

It didn't matter much. Oakland couldn't score in the 9th as it was, and the A's fall to 19-14, suffering their second straight defeat at the hands of their seafaring rivals to the north.

There was some excitement in the middle of the game, when Michael Saunders almost took Jesse Chavez's head off with a line drive on a 2-1 pitch with two out. Chavez displayed some mind-numbingly good reflexes, allowing his legs to crumple beneath him while his glove raced upward to protect his head. Chavez wound up flat on his back. It so happened that the ball wound up in the webbing of the glove, which was completely unimportant — it's no exaggeration to say that Chavez was truly lucky to even be conscious at the end of that play. While tonight's game took an ugly turn results-wise, it could have very easily taken an even uglier one health-wise.

There's not much else to say, other than that Chavez is extremely lucky and his reflexes are beyond impressive. A few millimeters, milliseconds, anything different, and tonight's game could have been very quickly put into perspective in a tragic and serious way. Impressively, Chavez recovered and threw a scoreless 5th inning before being chased in the 6th. His ERA sits at 2.47 after his four-run evening.

The bullpen wasn't all bad, either — Sean Doolittle had perhaps his best outing of the year, striking out all four batters faced, and Luke Gregerson added a scoreless inning of his own in the 8th.

The A's will have to sweep tomorrow's doubleheader to salvage a series split, but that won't be easy, particularly given that the pitching matchup for tomorrow's first game features Dan Straily against Felix Hernandez.

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