After a feel-good first half that saw the Oakland Athletics take control of the division and seemingly position themselves for a deep playoff run, the Green and Gold find themselves reeling, and they followed up a disappointing loss Tuesday with another lackluster showing in a 5-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners Wednesday afternoon.
A.J. Griffin took the loss, giving up four earned runs in six innings with seven strikeouts and four walks. Hisashi Iwakuma settled down after a rough start to throw seven innings with four strikeouts and two walks to earn the win for Seattle.
For the second day in a row Oakland’s hitters came out hot without being able to sustain the effort for the entire game. Coco Crisp didn’t hesitate to take a swing at Iwakuma’s first pitch of the day, and he connected for his 11th home run of the year to give the A’s a quick 1-0 lead.
Jed Lowrie followed up the quick score with another first inning triple, and for a moment it seemed as if Tuesday night’s four-run opening inning might be replicated, but Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Yoenis Cespedes were all retired to strand Lowrie at third.
Seattle wasted no time evening things up, and Michael Morse took Griffin deep to center field for a one-out solo shot to tie the game in the top of the second.
Oakland brought two more runs home in the fourth, one thanks to a leadoff homer by Brandon Moss and the other on a sacrifice fly by Alberto Callaspo. Cespedes had doubled to follow up the long ball by Moss, and he moved to third on a single to right Josh Reddick, and Callaspo’s flyout to center field allowed him to score to give the A’s a 3-1 lead.
Keeping with the back and forth nature of the game, Brad Miller brought the Mariners within a run when he hit a two-out solo homer in the fifth. It was the 30th home run of the year allowed by Griffin, and it propelled him back into the top of that category in all of baseball.
Iwakuma kept the Oakland’s bats relatively quiet over the next few innings, and Seattle took advantage of two walks by Griffin in the sixth inning to take the lead on a bases-clearing shot down the left field line by Brendan Ryan. After working the count to 0-2 with two outs, Griffin threw a hanging curveball, and Ryan connected with he ball deflecting off of Donaldson’s glove at third and rolling into foul territory in left.
Kendrys Morales scored easily from second, but Cespedes made a good throw home to allow Stephen Vogt to have a chance at tagging out a charging Dustin Ackley. Vogt appeared to have the ball as Ackley slid into his knees and swept him off the plate, but umpire Chad Fairchild called him safe to give the Mariners a 4-3 lead.
Vogt stayed on the ground for several minutes as the trainer attended to him, a nightmare scenario for Bob Melvin after Derek Norris broke his left big toe in Tuesday night’s contest. Thankfully Vogt would remain in the game, a huge break for Oakland considering Donaldson or Nate Freiman would’ve had to come in to catch if he wasn’t able to.
From there, the urgency was evident for the A’s as they needed to string together some runs to avoid a third straight series loss to an opponent within the division. Cespedes got a one-out double in the bottom of the sixth, but his teammates couldn’t come up with a hit to drive him in.
After Jerry Blevins replaced Griffin and got a shutdown inning in the top of the seventh, Oakland put three more men on base but couldn’t score. After advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by Vogt and taking third on a wild pitch, the A’s got their best scoring opportunity when Eric Sogard went home on a grounder to short by Lowrie, but Brendan Ryan threw home for the fielder’s choice out, and Donaldson popped out in the next at-bat to end the inning.
Blevins walked Justin Smoak with one out in the eighth, which prompted Melvin to bring in Dan Otero out of the bullpen. Otero gave up a single to Morse, followed by a grounder to Ackley that moved Smoak over to third while Sogard went to second for the force out. Ryan then got his third RBI of he day when he hit a slow grounder up the middle, and while Sogard was able to field it, there was no throw to be made as Smoak crossed the plate to make it 5-3 and give Seattle an insurance run.
Otero got Henry Blanco to flyout to end the inning, and the A’s returned to the dugout to face reliever Charlie Furbush, who got the three-up, three-down inning that Oakland’s crowd is normally accustomed to seeing from the home team’s bullpen.
Otero stayed in and retired the side in the top of the ninth, but all three A’s hitters struck out against Danny Farquhar in their final string of at-bats to seal the loss and give the series to Seattle. With the two losses, Oakland dipped under .500 (15-16) since the All-Star break, and they now stand two games behind Texas in the AL West, and that could extend by another half game by the end of the night as the Rangers are taking on Astros later today.