The Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners face each other 57 times every year during the regular season, but it feels like even more than that.
Both clubs play plenty of exciting games each summer, just rarely against each other. When they meet up, it tends to be a low-scoring affair that somehow isn’t a pitcher’s duel, and it’s often decided on something annoying like a throwing error or a random homer from a deep bench player. Extra innings are common and interminable.
Saturday’s Cactus League exhibition was that kind of game. The A’s and Mariners combined for just five hits and finished in a 1-1 tie, a result that’s even more boring than is usually possible by rule between this pair of star-crossed squads. If you were still in doubt over whether seven-inning spring training games were a good idea, just know that rule saved you an extra hour or two of your time today.
There was almost a chance for some excitement, but Seattle made sure to rain on that parade. The A’s put their first two runners of the game on base in the 1st inning, and later loaded the bags with two outs. But the Mariners invoked the mercy rule to end it rather than play out the rally, leaving non-roster catcher Carlos Perez on deck. It would probably have been Perez’s highest-leverage at-bat of the spring and biggest opportunity to impress his club, but, Mariners.
That now marks four times opponents have used the 20-pitch mercy rule against the A’s this spring, while Oakland has refrained from using it at all.
Nothing much happened until the 5th inning, when Seattle finally scored the game’s first run. Top outfield prospect Taylor Trammell nearly homered into the RF corner but settled for a double off the wall, and he advanced to third when the carom got away from outfielder Greg Deichmann for an error. A sac fly brought Trammell home.
The lead lasted about five minutes. Leading off the top of the 6th, Tony Kemp blasted a homer to tie it up, his first long ball since last spring’s Cactus League.
Only one batter reached base for either team the rest of the way after that dinger. Since this is spring and the seven-inning length was set, the game ended in a tie. It’s the Mariners’ fourth straight tie, out of six exhibition contests so far, because of course it is.
While the box score results weren’t interesting, there were still plenty of takeaways for the A’s.
- RHP Daulton Jefferies had another excellent start. He tossed two scoreless innings and struck out three batters. A runner reached base in both frames, via a walk in the 1st and a double in the 2nd, but each time he worked around it. He’s No. 5 on our Community Prospect List.
- Jefferies said the following about the slider he’s been working on this spring, via Athletics Farm: “I’ve gotten past the beginner phase of it. ... I was able to get a couple Ks on it so I think that does nothing but boost my confidence with that pitch. It is gonna be a great pitch for me because all my other pitches are so hard.”
- RHP J.B. Wendelken was operating 92-94 mph in his spring debut out of the bullpen, which is on the lower end of his 94+ average. That’s a good reminder that pitchers are still warming up and don’t have their arms up to full regular season strength yet. He retired Kyle Seager, Evan White, and Tom Murphy in order in the 4th.
- RHP Miguel Romero was tagged with the unearned run in the 5th, but really only gave up Trammell’s hit. He is en route to joining our Community Prospect List Top 30, in the mid/low-20s.
- RHP Wandisson Charles nailed down a 1-2-3 inning in his second spring appearance, though oddly the fireballer is yet to strike anyone out. He’s No. 21 on our Community Prospect List.
- 2B Tony Kemp is off to a great start this spring, as he competes to stay atop the depth chart at second base. He’s now 3-for-7 with a homer, a legit double, three walks, a stolen base, and only one strikeout.
- Kemp’s main lefty competition at 2B is Vimael Machin, who got another hit today and is now 3-for-10 with a couple loud outs and zero strikeouts, though also no walks or extra-base hits.
- OF prospect Cody Thomas, acquired from the Dodgers in the Kolarek/Neuse trade, walked twice and has now reached base in half of his eight spring plate appearances.
Cactus League games are meant to warm up for the regular season, not to be pure entertainment, so it was still a productive day. But it sure is fun when they’re entertaining too.
The A’s return tomorrow at noon against the Cleveland Indians. Oakland will start with righty prospect Parker Dunshee on the mound.