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Game #80: A’s lead all day but blow it at last minute

Early lead gives way to late blown save

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners
Abraham Toro gets the walk-off shower
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday was the same game we’ve been watching for the past two seasons.

The Oakland A’s scored in the 1st inning and then never even reached second base again, which gave the opponent plenty of time to mount a comeback. In the end, the Seattle Mariners walked off by a 2-1 margin at T-Mobile Park, with Oakland’s bullpen taking a blown save and a loss.

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

The 1st inning went well! Tony Kemp led off with a walk, and Ramon Laureano singled to put runners on the corners. Sean Murphy came through with a sac fly to plate the run and put the A’s on top 1-0.

That proved to be all the offense the A’s got today, as 23 of their next 27 batters were retired. A single in the 2nd inning was stranded, as was one in the 7th, without either moving off first base. A single in the 8th got picked off and caught stealing, and a walk in the 9th was eliminated in a double play to end the game. Womp womp.

Still, that lone run was almost enough today, thanks to another brilliant start by Paul Blackburn. He navigated around a couple rallies in the first two innings, but then settled down to retire 14 straight batters. Seattle only hit the ball hard against him four times.

  • Blackburn: 6⅓ ip, 0 runs, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 4 hits, 87 pitches

His teammates helped out on defense behind him, ending two different innings with line drive double plays. It happened in the 1st inning courtesy of shortstop Nick Allen (see video below), and again in the 7th on an unassisted play by first baseman Seth Brown. Blackburn was out of the game already for the latter double play by Brown, but he was still responsible for one of the runners on base at the time.

After seven innings, Oakland still somehow held their 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t last much longer.

In the 8th inning, Justin Upton came to the plate as a pinch-hitter. Let’s pause for some quick background.

The four-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger winner has been struggling at the plate for several years, and he’ll turn 35 next month. He was let go by the Angels at the beginning of the season, causing them to eat his $28 million salary, but he found a new home with the Mariners. He returned to the majors two weeks ago and has played 11 games for Seattle, but has gone only 4-for-32 with a double and 15 strikeouts.

Today, he was called to pinch-hit, and naturally he drilled a homer to tie the game. Against a reliever (A.J. Puk) who rarely allows homers, and in a stadium that isn’t friendly to power. It was Upton’s first MLB dinger since August of 2021, and at 358 feet it was shorter than only seven other Mariners homers so far this season (76th longest out of 83). You can’t make this stuff up.

The 9th inning went to Lou Trivino. Necessity recently forced him back into the closer role, and he’s responded mostly with his sweet side, converting his last three save chances. Today we got the sour side.

Trying to preserve a 1-1 tie, Trivino walked his first batter. The next one singled, putting runners on the corners with nobody out. From there it was basically a formality, with the walk-off run on third base, and indeed a single by Abraham Toro sealed the deal. It’s not a blown save for Trivino since he didn’t enter with a lead, but it’s still a loss, and there is a blown save charged to Puk.

In other news, manager Mark Kotsay was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. And he was right, it was a crap call by the umpire. It didn’t end up mattering because the batter was later retired anyway, but Kots stood up for his guys.

One run. Four hits. Gem start wasted. Blown save. Loss. Sounds about like the 2022 A’s. Maybe this is all a dream?