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Game #135: Home Run Derby Tips in M’s Favor

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Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 02: Yonder Alonso #10 of the Seattle Mariners is greeted in the dugout after hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field on September 2, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.
Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

This was a warrior night. Ninety degrees and the roof off at Safeco Field, this was one band of brothers against another. One team clawing to stay relevant, one team looking to take away a dream. As the Yankees and Twins sit precariously on their wild card perches, the Mariners pushed within striking distance of the second Wild Card spot with tonight’s defeat of the Oakland Athletics. The A’s came out to wreck the Mariner hopes and, until the last moment with bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th, they were very close. More than anything, tonight was a home run derby battle. One would think, therefore, that it would be a walk-off homerun to end the battle. No, it was a wild pitch (Treinan) that went through the legs of catcher Bruce Maxwell that led to the final run and walk-off win. And one has to feel for this competitive young catcher who struggled during his post game interview:

But, I get ahead of myself. So let’s begin again.

The Athletics were the first, though not the last, to strike blood. In essence, the A’s dominated with their bats. Eleven hits, to Seattle’s 10—the Athletics pelted the Safeco bleacher seats with dinger after dinger. It began in the second with a 418 foot center field shot that had Bruce Maxwell trotting the bases.

In the third inning, Khris Davis hit #37 a distance of 426 feet to seize the night. This was the 189th Athletics homerun of the season that tied the current A’s in 9th place for the most season homeruns in Athletic’s history. That tie was then broken in the 4th with a three-run shot by center fielder (yes, center fielder) Matt Joyce. With this homerun, 9th place in Athletic Baseball Club history was sewn up. Having had a difficult season with losses mounting, we should probably pause a moment to relish that. We have seen some beautiful long-balls this season.

Joyce, playing center field for the first time since 2009, went 1-3 on the night with two walks and 3 RBI’s. According to Joe Stiglich, Melvin was sitting the 1-18 Powell as a break. This pre-game commentary gives a solid overview of the interpretation if you are yearning for more details:

Other than the decibel issue that often plagues visiting teams to Safeco, Joyce had a strong night. The decibel issue was a near-collision with Chad Pinder in the fourth that luckily led to the second out of the inning as Pinder halted just before impact.

And this wasn’t the only decibel issue. This Safeco home-field advantage led to a single turned into a double by shortstop Jean Segura in the 6th that had Marcus Semien looking like a jelly-legged batter. There was also a meeting on the mound that led to a ‘cross up’ in the 6th between Bruce Maxwell and pitcher Sam Moll, in for a second night after last night’s major league debut. Moll came in with two outs in the 6th with Segura on second after his second double of the night. Moll ended the inning by getting Alonso to ground out to second baseman Lowrie to Olson at first. Moll faced one other batter, Robinson Cano, and had him swinging on a slider that was a foot off the plate. Cano then dribbled a slow roller and Moll threw Cano out at first in a quick, heads up play that was overturned for the out on appeal.

With one out, Ryan Dull then came in for a repeat performance of the prior night—this time getting Cruz to ground to Chapman at third who threw to Olson for the second out. But, unlike the prior night, Melvin did not allow him to face Kyle Seager. Instead, Coulombe was brought in and quickly dispatched Seager who grounded to first for an Olson unassisted putout.

The Seattle bats were, however, fierce throughout the game and ultimately won the day. Robbie Cano hit a two-run shot 426 feet in the second. In the 5th inning there were back-to-back homers by Segura and Alonso. Finally, Seattle catcher Mike Zunino homered off of Chris Hatcher in the 8th to tie the game. Melvin looked brilliant in his strategy of pitching changes in the 7th and Hatcher coming in for the 8th wasn’t a bad move, but Melvin pulled him to put in Blake Treinen after the tied-up eighth. Hatcher was obtained for $500,000 on August 17th from the Dodgers. Treinen ultimately lost the game but had a bit of help in doing so.

Treinen faced Jean Segura to start the ninth, one Mariner who had been having an incredible night. Segura had a leadoff double to begin the game, a 411 foot blast in the 5th (his 8th homerun of the year) and an RBI double in the sixth. In all fairness, Segura’s grounder to Olson in the 9th was a hard shot with difficult movement. Olson’s error was both mental and physical. He began to charge the ball for the short-hop and then changed his mind mid-movement to back off. No man’s land and the hard shot was by him to allow Segura the bag. Treinen then gave up a single to Yonder Alonso.

With Segura now on second and Alonso on first, Melvin elected to intentionally walk Cano. Cano’s bat had been lively all night: Fly to left in the first, two-run homer in the 3rd, base hit in the 5th and the aforementioned dribbler to Moll in the 7th. With no outs and bases loaded, it looked like the right move when Treinen struck out Nelson Cruz. Treinen then followed with the second out to get Kyle Seager to pop up to second base. It was the officially scored wild pitch (though it could easily have been marked a passed ball) that followed during the Haniger at-bat that was ultimately the A’s demise as they lost 7-6. Prior to this ball getting by that allowed Segura to run home for the win, Maxwell saved the A’s by blocking a nasty ball in the dirt. It was literally just after this that Maxwell’s glove was slow to get down and the ball, skimming the dirt, slid through his legs. A heart breaker and loss number 77 on the season.

It should be noted that, despite Jharel Cotton being pulled early in the 5th, he had moments of excellent control and ball movement. But giving up 7 hits and 4 runs with two walks was enough to have him pulled with a 6-2 Athletic lead. Treinen took the loss, now 1-4, and Mariner’s closer Edwin Diaz picked up the win and two strikeouts (Lowrie, Davis). That said, it was Mariner Marco Gonzales that deserves the real credit, pitching four shutout innings to control the damage and buy time for the Mariner bats. Amidst this it also included a 1-3 pickoff of Matt Chapman that was one of the best MLB pickoffs this season.

To end this recap on a good note, check out this stunning and starting-to-become-routine play by Matt Chapman:

The Athletics will attempt to salvage this series by avoiding the sweep starting at 1:10 Sunday. Daniel Gossett will take the mound against Mariner left hander Andrew Albers.