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Game #46: A’s hang on for 4-2 win, take series against Mariners

Blackburn bent but didn’t break

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The A’s beat the Seattle Mariners 4-2 on Wednesday afternoon, securing the series win before heading home for a nine-game homestand.

The pitching had the pressure on them all day, with Mariners hitters getting on base in every inning today except the ninth. but for the most part were able to keep Seattle from getting a rally going. The bullpen allowed the two Mariners’ runs, the only two the unit surrendered all series.

The offense, meanwhile, racked up nine hits on their way to four runs, including a pair of solo shots that proved to be the difference. The finally bats woke up this series.

*** Click here to revisit today’s Game Thread! ***

With the starting pitching matchup today, runs looked like they would be at a premium. Both teams left a runner on the bases in the first before Oakland got a serious scoring chance in the second. A leadoff walk and Seth Brown double put runners on second and third for the A’s with no out, a golden opportunity to take an early lead against last season’s Cy Young winner, Robbie Ray. The lefty showed why he won the award last year, though, getting a weak flyout and then two strikeouts to strand both runners. Huge lost opportunity for Oakland, there. He’d rack up another pair of K’s the next inning, too.

The A’s starting pitcher, meanwhile, was surprisingly wild today. Entering the game with only three walks on the year, Paul Blackburn walked five today, almost doubling his season total in just one game. He walked batters in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th innings, but a pair of double plays helped prevent any of them from scoring. On the plus side, he only allowed one hit, a single in the second, so that’s good.

Oakland struck first in the fourth, with Brown again getting a big knock for the A’s. This time, this one left the yard:

Entering today, Brown was a mere 1-for-14 against left-handers this season. All the signs pointed towards him sitting against an elite lefty like Ray, but Mark Kotsay’s intuition worked out here, as Brown went 2-for-3 with a double and home run against him today to continue his recent hot streak at the plate.

The A’s again wasted another scoring opportunity in the fifth after Cristian Pache lead off the frame with a double. Outfielder Luis Barrera, a late addition to today’s lineup, made a productive out moving Pache to third, but again, the Mariners’ Ray buckled down and struck out the next two A’s batters to strand the runner at third and keep it a one-run game.

The sixth inning was much kinder to Oakland. After a 1-out Christian Bethancourt single, shortstop Elvis Andrus came to the plate and hit a towering ball for his second homer in as many days, this one just barely sneaking over the fence in left field to give Oakland a 3-0 lead:

Staked to a three-run lead, Kotsay sent Blackburn out for the sixth to face the top of the Mariners’ lineup, starting his third time through the order. He walked the leadoff man before hitting the next batter on the first pitch to bring the tying run to the plate, showing why he has been shielded from facing batters a third time. A flyout then brought up Julio Rodriguez with one out, and Kotsay ended Blackburn’s day, turning to the ‘pen and bringing in Lou Trivino.

  • Paul Blackburn: 5 13 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 2 K, 81 pitches

If you watched the game, you could clearly see Blackburn didn’t have his best stuff today. With his pristine control such a big part of his game, the fact the young right-hander could weather a lack of control like today is surprising and impressive. We are watching him grow right before our eyes. He now qualifies for the ERA title and is currently fifth in the A.L. with a 1.70 ERA.

Back to the game. With two on and only one out, Trivino was facing one of the top prospects in baseball in Rodriguez, who has hurt the A’s a few times this series. The Oakland righty blew a 95 MPH pitch past Rodriguez for a swinging strikeout, then got a flyball to end the Seattle threat, keeping them off the board and preserving the shutout.

The A’s had a chance for insurance in the seventh thanks to yet another leadoff hit that put a runner in scoring position, this time a Barrera double to left. A wild pitch helped and moved him to third, but another wild pitch hurt and went the Mariners’ way, going right past the catcher, prompting Barrera to break for the plate, only to realize too late that the ball bounce directly back to the catcher, who had enough time to throw to the pitcher covering the plate:

That run would have been huge, because the Mariners were about to break through against Oakland pitching. Lefty A.J. Puk started the seventh and allowed a single before getting a double play. Then it happened. A walk, wild pitch, and single brought in the first Seattle run of the day and tightened this one, only the second run Puk has allowed all year. With one of their best hitters in Jesse Winker up to bat, this game could have been tied in the blink of an eye. Luckily Puk got a somewhat friendly call on a full-count pitch for the strikeout to end the inning. Winker was not happy:

Seattle struck again in the eighth to make this a one-run game. With righty Zach Jackson starting the inning, the Mariners got back-to-back singles to put the tying run on base. Jackson induced a double play, but cost himself with a wild pitch, bringing in the runner that advanced to third on the double play. 3-2 A’s.

The A’s needed a ninth-inning insurance run, especially after wasting so many scoring opportunities today. A leadoff walk to Brown, his third time on base today, and a steal of second base started things off in the right direction, but after a strikeout and groundout it looked like they would waste yet another chance. Enter the red-hot Barrera:

Huge is an understatement. The run gave Oakland a slightly bigger cushion for closer Dany Jimenez in the ninth. After replacing Ramon Laureano in today’s lineup just 30 minutes before game time, he went 2-for-4 with that huge RBI and would have scored a run if it weren’t for a perfect bounce. It’s looking more and more like he’s here to stay with the way he’s swinging the bat right now.

It was a clean bottom of the ninth for Jimenez, getting a flyout and a pair of groundouts, including this nice snag by Brown to end the game:

Blackburn was oddly wild but overall effective in preventing runs, getting the first win for an A’s starter in 13 games. The offense should have probably scored more with as many chances as they had but did enough damage to win anyway. Seth Brown, Elvis Andrus, and Luis Barrera in particular led the way in the runs department, driving in all four A’s runs today. And the bullpen survived a day they weren’t firing on all cylinders. The defense turned four double plays, to put the cherry on top.

The A’s are no longer in last place in the AL West after taking two of three against these guys. They went a respectably 3-3 on the road trip and are now heading back to the Bay Area for a while, starting a three-game series against the Texas Rangers at home tomorrow night. It’ll be Frankie Montas going for Oakland, where he’ll be opposed by Martin Perez, who is enjoying a renaissance year in his return to where he started his career. See you all then!