Scott Kazmir was brilliant this afternoon, unleashing a wipeout-changeup to go with an explosive 92-93MPH fastball and disappearing slider. So good was Kazmir that he retired the first 10 batters and held the Mariners to just 2 hits through 6 innings, while striking out 9. 61 of Kazmir's 82 pitches were strikes.
However, the A's could not break through offensively against RHP Chris Young, who has reinvented himself as a relatively soft-tosser. Sitting at around 86MPH throughout his 6 innings, Young wobbled around allowing hits to John Jaso and Brandon Moss in the 1st, then a walk (Josh Reddick) and a hit (Nick Punto) in the 2nd in an inning Eric Sogard ended with a fly ball to the RF wall.
Jaso and Josh Donaldson launched long foul HRs, Young had just one clean inning, and yet when each starting pitcher exited after 6 IP, the game was still 0-0. Message to rest of American League: Don't get into a "battle of the bullpens" with the A's.
After Fernando Abad (one batter) and Dan Otero held serve in the 7th, Oakland finally broke through in the 8th against LHP Charlie Furbush. Jed Lowrie, pinch-hitting, drew his 14th BB of the season to bring up Yoenis Cespedes. For some reason Furbush, who throws hard, decided not to try to blow fastballs by Cespedes -- even though the video room has ample evidence that this can be a good approach against the A's LFer. Instead, Furbush dropped a slow curve into the hitting zone, and right into Cespedes' swing, producing a 2-run HR that gave Oakland a 2-0 lead.
Following a scoreless 8th by Luke Gregerson, in the 9th Donaldson picked on a Lucas Luetge fastball away and drove it over the RF fence for his 3rd HR, giving closer-du-jour Sean Doolittle some breathing room. Doolittle recorded his first save with a scoreless 9th, shrugging off a Robinson Cano 2-out single to strike out Corey Hart on a slider. Good to see Doolittle succeeding with all his pitches. Cano had two of Seattle's three hits, Brad Miller the other.
One potential cloud to the silver lining: After the bottom of the 6th, with Kazmir rolling and at just 82 pitches, Comcast had a shot of Kazmir, manager Bob Melvin, and Assistant Trainer Walt Horn, talking in the dugout -- then Fernando Abad got up to throw in the bullpen and came into the game. Susan Slusser reports it was "triceps tightness," same as Kazmir experienced in spring training. Hopefully it is indeed nothing major, but with a pitcher you're always worried it's something major so we'll hold our breath because that's what fans do.
Kazmir was sensational today, as was the quartet of relievers who followed him to the mound. At 8-4, the A's are atop the AL West heading down to Anaheim for a series with the Angels. If Oakland can keep winning 80% of the games this season that are not started by Felix Hernandez, there's not going to be a whole lot of drama in this division.