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Game #137: A’s bullpen game falls short against Mariners

Oakland nearly made another epic comeback but couldn’t quite finish it off.

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s tried a new pitching strategy on Saturday and it didn’t work very well. The Mariners jumped out to an 8-1 lead, but even still the A’s nearly came all the way back. Ultimately they fell short, though, and Seattle held on for an 8-7 win.

Oakland experimented with the “opener,” popularized by the Tampa Bay Rays this season. Relief pitcher Liam Hendriks was slated to pitch the first inning or two and then be relieved by Daniel Mengden in the “bulk guy” role.

*** Game Thread #1 | Game Thread #2 ***

It started well, with Hendriks throwing a scoreless 1st, but then it all went pear-shaped. Hendriks came back out for the 2nd and got himself in a jam, and Danny Coulombe wasn’t able to escape it. Two runs scored, and then when Mengden entered in the 3rd he gave up four more. Cory Gearrin made his A’s debut and allowed another two to cross the plate, and by the end of the 5th it was an 8-1 Mariners lead.

However, Oakland still managed to make a game out of it. Mark Canha was the only A’s hitter who could figure out Seattle ace James Paxton, and his two-run homer against the lefty cut the lead to 8-3. Canha had previously driven in a run on an RBI groundout, meaning that he was responsible for all three runs that Paxton allowed.

Fast forward to the 8th inning, and the A’s nearly broke the Mariners’ best relievers. Khris Davis blasted a dinger off Alex Colome, then they loaded the bases and Marcus Semien cleared them with a double off closer Edwin Diaz. However, the comeback bid ended there and Diaz wrapped up his 51st save.

The homer by Khrush was his 40th of the season, marking the third straight year he’s reached that total. In all of A’s franchise history, only Hall of Fame slugger Jimmie Foxx has ever hit 40 dongs in three straight years, back in 1932-34. Overall, Nelson Cruz was the last MLB player to do it, from 2014-16, and he was coincidentally on hand to witness it this time.

A few other notable facts:

  • Catcher Beau Taylor made his MLB debut, as a defensive replacement in the 9th inning. This is his eighth season in the A’s organization after being drafted in 2011, and he finally made the Show. He joins outfielder Nick Martini as players who waited since the 2011 draft to finally make their debuts this summer.
  • The A’s used nine pitchers and 24 total players, which are both Oakland records for a nine-inning game. The nine hurlers also ties an Oakland record regardless of game length.
  • Matt Joyce, freshly off the disabled list today, almost made his first appearance since July. He was called on to pinch-hit, but the Mariners countered with a lefty reliever and the A’s countered with a righty hitter.

I could say more about this game (here’s my recap for the S.F. Examiner), but let’s move on. The A’s tried something new, and it didn’t work very well. They’ll probably try it again in the future, and maybe it’ll work better then. In the meantime, we got further confirmation of what we already knew, that their lineup can come back at any time from any deficit against any opponent. Even with the Mariners throwing their ace and their top relievers, Oakland still nearly came back from down seven runs.

Go get ‘em tomorrow and salvage the split.