***Tonight’s GameThread and 500+ comments can be found here***
Thanks to a strong performance by Brett Anderson, clutch late-game homers by Jed Lowrie and Mark Canha and two gutsy scoreless innings from Blake Treinen, the A’s snapped a 3 game losing streak tonight defeating the Mariners 3-2, at Safeco Field in Seattle.
The A’s have faced 13 lefthanded starting pitchers in 2018 (tied for most in the league with the Royals) and tonight’s lefty, James “Big Maple” Paxton, was the best they have seen. Paxton, who entered the game with a 5.16 ERA in his first 6 starts of 2018, dominated the A’s early, striking out 10 of the first 14 Oakland hitters and piling up 16 strikeouts overall in 7 innings.
Brett Anderson, making his 2018 season debut in his second go around with the A’s, pitched really well for the Green and Gold tonight, mixing a 92-94 mph fastball with a biting slider and decent curveball to contain the Mariners to 2 runs on 5 hits in 6 1/3 innings.
The Mariners would strike first in the bottom of the 3rd off of Anderson as another familiar face to A’s Nation, Ryan Healy, would lead-off the inning with a homer to left. Future Hall of Famer, Ichiro Suzuki would come next and draw a four-pitch walk before being advanced to 2nd on a fielders choice. Jean Segura, the M’s shortstop would single to left and be thrown out at second base on an excellent throw by A’s leftfielder, Chad Pinder, and an excellent tag by A’s second baseman, Jed Lowrie, but not before Suzuki scored to make it 2-0, Mariners after 3 innings.
Fast forward to the 5th inning, where the A’s would put runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs (Canha single to Right and a Jonathan Lucroy double down the left field line) but the rally would stall with a Jake Smolinski fly out to Right.
Anderson would settle down after giving up the two runs in the 3rd inning and calmly go on to retire 11 straight batters (1-2-3 in the 4th, 5th & 6th innings) before giving up two singles in the bottom of the 7th, ending his evening and bringing on RHP Ryan “4 strikeouts in an inning” Dull. Dull would retire the next two batters to end the threat and close the book on Brett Anderson’s evening (6 1⁄3 innings, 5 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, 4 K’s, 80 pitches).
The A’s would get a lead-off double from Marcus Semien in the 6th, but he would be stranded there. In the top of the 7th, Mark Canha would single and Jonathan Lucroy would walk to put runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs. Jake Smolinski would come up once again with 2 runners on. Smolinksi who came into the game with success against Paxton (4-7, HR) would strike out to end the threat (strikeout victim #16).
The only positive for the A’s in Paxton’s strike-fest, was his rising pitch count, which reached 105 after 7 innings and forced the Mariners to go to the bullpen to start the 8th. The M’s would turn to their primary set-up man, Juan Nicasio. Semien would fly out to Right to start the inning, bringing up pitch-hitter, Matt Joyce. Joyce was coming into the at-bat just 1 for his last 19 with 8 strikeouts. And what do you think Joyce would do? Hit a ground rule double of course! Jed Lowrie would be up next and the early clubhouse leader for AL MVP (yes, I see you Mookie Betts), would drive a 2-0 pitch so far that A’s announcer Glen Kuiper would be forced to yell, “and that baby is gone!” It was Lowrie’s second hit of the game and his 8th home run of the season.
A’s closer, Blake Treinen would come in to face the Mariners offense in the bottom of the 8th. Treinen hadn’t seen any game action in 8 days (Last Tuesday in Texas). After recording the first out, Treinen, perhaps a bit rusty, would surrender back to back hits to Dee Gordon (infield single) and Jean Segura (double on an overturned challenge play on the tag at second) to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Bob Melvin would make the call to intentionally walk, Robinson Cano to load the bases. Knowing that Seattle Closer, Edwin Diaz, who has been unhittable in the first month of the season (allowed 2 hits in 46 at-bats) was heating up in the Seattle bullpen, the game hung in the balance with Treinen facing A’s killer, Nelson Cruz. Treinen would calmly get Cruz looking (Cruz’s 4th strikeout of the night) and powerful clean-up hitter, Mitch Haniger, swinging, to get out of the jam and take the game into the 9th inning tied 2-2. (What a game!!!!).
Seattle closer, Diaz, would come into the game in the 9th to face the bottom of the A’s order. Diaz, not only had allowed just 2 hits in 46 at-bats, he had also struck out 29 batters in 15 1⁄3 innings. The first batter against Diaz in the 9th was one Mark Canha. Playing first base tonight to give a much-needed breather to Matt Olson, Canha had been one of the only A’s to figure out Mariners starter, James Paxton, reaching base on two singles. Canha had a positive at-bat against Diaz last night, drawing a two-out walk.
Tonight, Canha would do a little better than a walk, launching a 1-0 fastball over the left-field wall to put the A’s in the lead 3-2! It was Canha’s 3rd hit of the evening and his 5th homerun of the season.
The game wasn’t over however as A’s closer, Blake Treinen still needed to acquire the most difficult outs in a baseball game, the last 3 of the game. Treinen would get Seager to ground out for the first out of the 9th. Catcher, Mike Zunino would draw a one-out walk and Ryon Healy would follow that with a single to put runners on 1st and 2nd with one out and Ichiro due up next. Suzuki, perhaps in his final days with the Mariners, couldn’t catch up to Treinen’s bowling ball fastball and struck out.
Unfortunately, the next batter was Dee Gordon, who came into tonight’s game red-hot. Gordon hit a groundball off of Treinen’s glove that Lowrie came up with quickly and fired over to Matt Olson (entered the game in the 9th) at first for the final out. Unfortunately, in the age of video replay, an out is never quite an out until New York says it is and the call was overturned to load the bases with two outs and Mariners SS, Jean Segura up next.
Segura on a 1-1 count would hit a hard ground ball to one the person every A’s fan wants the ball to go to with the game on the line, Matt Chapman. Chapman would fire a 100 mph perfect strike across the diamond for the true final out and the A’s would endure a 16 strikeout performance from James Paxton to pull out the come from behind victory, 3-2.
The win drew the A’s back to .500 (15-15). Series finale and final game of the road trip is tomorrow at 7:10pm with April AL Pitcher of the Month, Sean Manaea on the mound for the A’s. You have to love this team! Let’s Go A’s!
***Tonight’s GameThread and 500+ comments can be found here***