BY ANTHONY SOSA
A four-run first inning and a dominant performance from the Oakland Athletics’ bullpen provided the club with a 4-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners Thursday at the Oakland Coliseum. The win thwarted Seattle’s attempt at a sweep.
The A’s offense got to Mariners’ starting pitcher Felix Hernandez in the first inning and touched him up for four early runs. Back-to-back singles from Matt Joyce and Marcus Semien got the inning started for the Athletics. Jed Lowrie followed with a sacrifice fly. After Matt Chapman walked, Stephen Piscotty shot a ball to the left-center wall, which drove in a pair. Dustin Fowler then scored Piscotty on a bloop hit to left field.
“The last two days we’ve kind of been quiet with the bats, so it was nice to come out hot like we did,” Fowler said. “It’s big to get the runs when you can and get as many as you can.”
The offensive success against Hernandez was unchartered territory for the A’s. Throughout his career, Hernandez has dazzled at Oakland Coliseum. Coming into today’s game, Hernandez had made 24 career starts in Oakland owning a 13-3 record, 2.76 ERA and 125 strikeouts. His 13 career wins at the Coliseum rank most All-Time out of any visiting starter.
The 32-year-old veteran settled in after the first inning. He allowed just one base runner after the first inning. He finished with six innings of work, gaving up four earned runs on five hits and a walk. Hernandez also struck out two batters.
“He’s really good at abusing the zone, making you swing at pitches that you shouldn’t swing at,” Fowler said about Hernandez. “Today my swing finally was starting to feel good, so I was able to put up some good at-bats. He’s a great pitcher, he’s always done what he does.”
For the A’s, Josh Lucas made his first major league start on Thursday. The 27-year old only lasted two innings. He struggled with his command as he walked three batters. He averted damage in the first inning. After loading the bases on two hits and a walk without recording an out, he got Nelson Cruz to ground into a double play. He then struck out Kyle Seager and only allowed one run to score. Lucas walked two batters in the second and allowed another run to score when David Freitas singled in Andrew Romine. After finishing the second inning with 52 pitches, manager Bob Melvin decided to turn the ball over to the bullpen.
“(I’m) not happy with it, I mean, it could have been worse. We got the win, that’s all that matters,” Lucas said about his short outing on Thursday. “I felt okay. Obviously, the longer the inning goes the less time you have to recover, but it felt okay going back out.”
The Athletics’ bullpen did a stellar job of holding the lead. Chris Hatcher, Yusmeiro Petit, Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen combined for seven innings of work. In that span, they allowed just one run on six hits and one walk. They combined for five strikeouts.
“We threw a lot of innings in Toronto (last series) and (we) could tell today was pretty much going to be a bullpen day,” Hatcher said. “I think we stepped up and did a pretty good job. When it’s a bullpen day, you know you have to go out and eat some innings. I think it’s more of a thing of being aggressive to conserve pitch count, knowing you’re probably going multiple innings.”
The Mariners threatened to tie the game in the top of the eighth inning. With runners on first and third and two outs, Kyle Seager hit a ball down the line for a double that scored Mitch Haniger. That trimmed the A’s lead to just one, but Treinen, who came in earlier in the inning, got Dan Vogelbach to fly out and strand the tying and go-ahead runs on base.
Treinen finished the ninth inning with relative ease and converted his 11th save of 2018. By pitching 1 1/3 innings, Treinen wrapped up his sixth multi-inning save of the season, which is the most in baseball this season. Yusmeiro Petit, who pitched three solid innings, earned the win out of relief.
“We’ve had to do this a few times. We have some practice in it,” Melvin said about the A’s having to rely on their bullpen for a majority of the game. “Petit was terrific to give us three (innings) like that. You know it’s one thing to cover a day, but you have to keep an eye on the next day and the next day.”
Defense played a huge factor for the A’s on Thursday. The team turned five double plays. The last time an A’s team turned that many in a game was back in August of 2010 against the Kansas City Royals. “That’s always important. Anytime you can kill a rally with a double play, that’s big,” Lucas said.
The A’s continue their homestand and welcome the Arizona Diamondbacks to town this weekend for a three-game series. A pair of lefties having breakout seasons, Sean Manaea (5-4, 2.71) and Patrick Corbin (4-1, 2.60), battle it out on the mound Friday. The last time these two teams squared off was back in August 2015. Friday’s game is slated for 6:35 p.m. at the Oakland Coliseum.
Before today’s game, Melvin reiterated that Ryan Dull, who took a line drive off his glove hand in Wednesday’s game, was doing fine. Dull fell to the ground after the comebacker hit him, but he managed to finish off the inning. “He’s alright. It didn’t look that way right off the bat,” Melvin said. “Like I was saying last night, it was more catching the ball than throwing it.”
Athletics’ pitcher Paul Blackburn, who hasn’t pitched for the A’s yet this season due to a forearm strain suffered in Spring Training, threw three innings in extended Spring Training. “He’s pretty close to going out on assignment,” Melvin said. “Once you get to three innings, you’re pretty close to getting out on a rehab assignment to one of our affiliates. So, that’s probably what’s next for him. What the date is ? I’m not sure.”
Melvin had high praise for former Athletics’ reliever and current Mariners’ reliever Ryan Cook. The right-hander pitched for Oakland from 2012-15. Before taking the mound for the Mariners early this month, he last pitched for the Red Sox in 2015. He missed two full seasons due to three massive injuries, including a torn lat muscle, a torn hamstring and a torn UCL in his elbow, which led to Tommy John surgery. Cook pitched a scoreless seventh inning in Thursday’s game.
“He’s come a long way and he’s had a tough road,” Melvin said about Cook’s return to the majors. “Sometimes it’s difficult to push through and see the other side. Especially when he’s had the injuries he had, but I’m really happy for him.”