On a night that was set up to be a coming out party of sorts to announce the arrival of Jarrod Parker as a focal point of the Oakland Athletics’ stating rotation, it was Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma that looked like the promising young pitcher as the 31 year-old right hander retired eight straight batters at one point while striking out seven and pitching six strong innings, allowing only two hits as the Mariners beat the A’s 7-1.
Seattle made contact early against Parker, who had a 7.45 ERA over five games in spring training, and he struck out one while walking three Tuesday night, two of which came back to haunt him in the top of the third when Michael Morse dropped a cutting fastball over the right field wall with two outs to put the Mariners ahead 3-1. Yoenis Cespedes hit a solo home run straight away to center field to give the A’s a 1-0 lead the inning before, his second in five at-bats against Iwakuma.
The Mariners extended the lead to 4-1 in the fifth when Kendrys Morales singled up the middle to bring home Kyle Seager from second. The rally came after Parker had promptly retired the first two batters of the inning, and Bob Melvin briefly visited the mound after Morales’ RBI before allowing Parker to finish out the inning.
While the A’s are certainly capable of overcoming a small deficit, the offense did not deliver for the second night in a row. While several A’s players launched deep fly balls at or near the warning track in center field that were brought in by Michael Saunders, the A’s never really set the table, as the only other player to reach the basepaths on Iwakuma after Cespedes’ home run was Eric Sogard, who singled to left field in the third inning. Even after Iwakuma exited the game the A’s couldn’t really get things going, and the pop the team seemed to have in their bats at the end of Cactus League play has certainly dissipated in the first two games of the regular season.
To add to all this, the normally reliable bullpen was off their game as well, allowing three runs and five walks — three by last year’s All-Star representative Ryan Cook, who walked home a run after loading the bases in the top of the seventh — to ensure the A’s would have very little chance of staging a comeback. Grant Balfour allowed a home run in the ninth, Michael Morse’s second of the game, and a double to Franklin Gutierrez in his first plate appearance of the game.
While the A’s are never really a club that comes out of the gate on a tear to start the season, it’s hard to remember opening performances that fell this flat as Oakland has only garnered six hits and one run in the first two games. In fact, it’s the lowest run total through two games in Athletics history. They still have 160 games left to turn things around, however, and they’ll undoubtedly bounce back on offense, but after the magical run this ball club went on last year, one of the big concerns was that there would be a regression by some of the players that played integral roles in the success of 2012. While you never want to evaluate a team after one series, the worst-case scenario for the A’s this year is a fall-off on offense and a sophomore slump for the young pitchers, and both of those worries became a reality tonight.
The A’s will be back tomorrow at 7:05 PST as left-hander Tommy Milone looks to pitch the A’s to their first win of the season. Joe Saunders will start for the Mariners. Join us here when we break it all down, same time, same place.