Oakland's bullpen came into Wednesday's game with the third best ERA in the league at 2.46. But despite Bob Melvin's efforts to get the bullpen some rest before the club's 16th consecutive day of play, today's bullpen proved incapable of preserving a hard-won 8-4 lead. A's relievers conceded two in the sixth and three in the seventh as the A's lost to the Mariners 9-8.
Three of those runs scored on two home runs by Dae-Ho Lee, the second of which proved to be the winning blow for the Mariners. Lee now has four career home runs, three off A's pitching.
It's disappointing that today's poor bullpen results came after the A's tagged Felix Hernandez for eight runs (four earned) in a four-inning outing tied for the shortest of his 42-start career against the A's.
Marcus Semien put the A's on the board first with a solo home run in the third inning, the third home run of his career off of Felix Hernandez. Semien now has seven home runs this year, all in the ninth spot in the order. The single-season franchise record for home runs out of the ninth spot belongs to Ramon Hernandez, with nine in 2000.
Oakland extended their lead in the fourth with a little station-to-station rally capped off with a contact play. Josh Reddick and Khris Davis both singled, and they both moved up 90 feet when Stephen Vogt grounded out softly to Hernandez. Josh Reddick ran on contact when Billy Butler bounced a grounder to first baseman Dae-Ho Lee, and Lee's throw to Chris Iannetta was not in time, making the score 2-0.
Sean Manaea was fantastic, until he wasn't
Everything was going great for Sean Manaea after recording 14 outs in 59 pitches, showing Oakland A's fans hints of what his best stuff could look like after holding the Seattle Mariners scoreless for 4 2/3 innings. Among his accomplishments, he struck out Kyle Seager three times, retired the first six batters in 15 pitches, and escaped two one-out jams with runners on second and third.
And then it all went completely to hell.
Four consecutive hits with two out in the fifth inning turned a 2-0 A's lead into a 4-2 deficit, capped off after Nelson Cruz sent a Manaea fastball into orbit. Well it would have gone into space had the plaza reserved bleachers above the center field suites not stopped it to the delight of that one guy who brings a glove to the plaza reserved bleachers.
On HR, Manaea said should have went different pitch after Cruz saw so many fastballs. "I tried to go inside and it just went over the plate"— Joe Stiglich (@JoeStiglichCSN) May 4, 2016
A's bats come to life and Seattle's defense falls to pieces
In 42 starts against the A's, Felix Hernandez has twice been only able to record 12 outs. The first was on May 16, 2006 when the A's scored 10 runs off Hernandez, five of them earned. The second was today, when the A's knocked Hernandez out of the game after he faced six batters in the bottom of the fifth without recording an out.
Yonder Alonso led off the fifth with a line drive single to center, followed by a perfectly placed bloop to center from Marcus Semien. Billy Burns, perhaps not minding a sacrifice, bunted towards the mound. Felix Hernandez hesitated, considering a throw to third base to force out Alonso, and that hesitation was all Burns needed to load the bases on a bunt single. Jed Lowrie then singled to left, scoring Alonso to make it 4-3.
Josh Reddick was already 2-for-2 on the day, but all he could do against Hernandez's changeup was bounce it right back to him. However! Hernandez, perhaps looking to get two outs, attempted to make a glove flip play to shovel the ball to Chris Iannetta but instead bobbled the ball! Semien scored, Reddick reached first on the E1, and there was still nobody out in the inning.
Khris Davis then bounced a ground ball to third baseman Kyle Seager, but he let the ball go through him to let two runs score on what probably should have been a 5-4-3 double play. Seattle manager Scott Servais lifted a frustrated Hernandez trailing the A's 6-4.
Both of the runners inherited by Vidal Nuno scored on consecutive singles by Billy Butler and Chris Coghlan. In all, Oakland sent 11 men to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, scored six, and took an 8-4 lead.
Dae-ho Lee's 2 home runs, Seattle's 7 hits, push Mariners over the top
With the top of the line bullpen rested fairly well after deep starts in this series, Bob Melvin elected to pull Sean Manaea after 75 pitches and five innings. An understandable decision given how the bullpen has been a strength for the club this year and how hard Manaea was hit in the fifth.
The bullpen and some sloppy catching made that decision look really bad, however. Ryan Dull came in and allowed a one-out home run to Dae-ho Lee to narrow the score to 8-5. Leonys Martis singled and advanced to third when Stephen Vogt's bounced attempt to catch Martin stealing went into center field. Martin scored on Norichika Aoki's sacrifice fly to make it 8-6.
Sean Doolittle got the last out of the sixth and opened the seventh inning with a walk. Franklin Gutierrez bounced into a fielder's choice but advanced to second on what was scored as a wild pitch. Doolittle had been kept in the game specifically to face the left-handed Kyle Seager, but Seager singled to center to score Gutierrez from second, making it a one-run game.
Bob Melvin turned to John Axford with the go-ahead run at the plate. He retired Chris Iannetta on a comebacker, but Dae-ho Lee came up again to knock in his second home run of the day, this one into the left field barbecue terrace, and take a 9-8 lead.
The Mariners bullpen stayed good
Including the last two outs of the fifth inning, 12 straight A's were retired by Seattle's bullpen after Oakland's six-run rally. Steve Cishek closed out the game, the A's managing just a walk in the final four frames after putting up 11 hits in the game's first four.
And now the Mariners look like a team
There are moments in a successful season that you point to where you go, "This is when the club came together." For a little while, that could have been today for the A's as they scored and scored and scored some more on a long-feared rival ace. Instead, the Mariners get their moment today:
Felix said that Cruz walked up to him after the 5th and said, "We are going to win this game." Hernandez replied: "I believe in you guys."— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) May 4, 2016
The new guy hit two big home runs, the bullpen kept their club in the game, one veteran told the other they wouldn't hang another loss on him.
Do any of you believe that these Athletics are capable of a pledge like that, down four runs after a two-error inning and having their teammates believe it? I haven't seen that out of any of these Athletics. I wonder if we ever will. And I wonder who will get the ax if it doesn't happen.
The winning pitcher was Mike Montgomery, the loser was John Axford, and Steve Cishek picks up his eighth save. With the sweep, neither team has won a home game in the season series, now tied up at three. The A's fall to four games behind the Mariners and fourth place in the AL West.
The A's finally get another day off tomorrow and will sit on their four-game losing streak as they travel east to start a three-city road trip in Baltimore. Friday's game is at 4:05 and features Rich Hill on the mound for the A's, with a starter to be announced for the Orioles.
But today the Mariners completed the sweep against the Athletics: Seattle 9, A's 8.