BY MARKO UKALOVIC
With the game knotted at zero in the bottom of the 12th inning, Dee Gordon lined a two-run home run over the right-field wall to give the Seattle Mariners a dramatic victory over the Oakland Athletics Wednesday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum. Seattle avoided a three-game sweep and gained a game back in the Wild Card standings, moving within 2.5 games of Oakland.
Following 11 innings where both teams failed to produce much offense or get a clutch hit with runners in scoring position, the Mariners finally came through with Gordon’s 367-foot shot. It was just the second homer of the season for Gordon. Yusmerio Petit, who entered in the 12th, surrendered the bomb and took the loss. “It was just one changeup that was up in the zone,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin about the mistake pitch Petit made to Gordon. “If he gets it where he wants to, probably a roll-over type of pitch. In games like that, typically that’s what happens. It’s one pitch and that was the case today.”
Both teams struggled to get any type of offense going throughout the game. Especially the A’s, who couldn’t muster any base runners against Mariners’ starter Mike Leake through the first three frames. He went a perfect nine-up, nine-down to start the game. In the bottom of the fourth inning, he surrendered his first hit of the game, a leadoff triple to Nick Martini. After walking Matt Chapman, Leake worked out of a no-out, runners on first and third jam, by striking out the A’s 3-4-5 hitters.
Oakland had another chance with a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the sixth inning. With two outs, Matt Chapman blooped a double down the right-field line. However, Jed Lowrie followed by grounding out and ending the threat. Leake finished his outing by retiring the last seven batters he faced. The 30-year-old right-hander provided the Mariners with eight solid innings of work, allowing no runs on two hits and a walk. He also struck out six batters on his way to a no-decision. Although, Leake wasn’t the only starter finding success on the mound.
Brett Anderson was going toe-to-toe with Leake. After allowing two singles in the first inning, he got Nelson Cruz to hit into a 5-3 double play. Anderson zoned in after that. Allowing just one single during the next five innings. In the top of the seventh, with two outs, Kyle Seager laced a double into right field, but Ryon Healy failed to knock him in after hitting a soft liner to end the inning. “Just mixing pitches and staying down in the zone,” Anderson said was the formula for his success on Wednesday.
In the top of the eighth inning after Anderson allowed a two-out single to Guillermo Heredia, Melvin decided to turn to his dominant bullpen. Lou Trivino was summoned, and he got Mitch Haniger to pop out to Lowrie in shallow centerfield. The veteran left-hander finished with 7 and 2/3 innings pitched, allowing no runs on five hits. He managed to cruise through the Mariners’ lineup three times despite only striking out two batters. Anderson lowered his season ERA from 4.53 to 3.90, earning the no-decision. “Other than probably the first start against these guys (Seattle) over there (Safeco Field), that’s as good as he’s pitched,” Melvin said. “You saw a lot of balls on the ground, a lot of weak contact. Expecting him to get us that deep in the game was probably a stretch but he just kept performing well. To the point where he deserved to go back out.”
The Mariners had a golden opportunity to score in the top of the ninth inning. With Fernando Rodney in to pitch for the A’s, Jean Segura got a one-out single. Nelson Cruz was then hit by a pitch. With first and second, and one out, Kyle Seager unloaded on a pitch, but it died right at the warning track for a long fly out that advanced Segura to third. Rodney then struck out pinch-hitter Denard Span to escape the jam. Segura finished the game going 4-for-5 with four singles, raising his average to .314 on the season.
The A’s found themselves with a chance to win the game in the bottom of 10th inning. With one out, Matt Olson launched a pitch from Zach Duke off the top of the left-centerfield wall for a double. Mariners’ manager Scott Servais brought in Nick Vincent and he promptly got his club out of trouble.
Jeurys Familia tight-roped out of danger in the top of the 11th inning. After he surrendered back-to-back, one-out singles to Robinson Cano and Segura, he struck out Cruz and got Seager to pop out to end the inning. The Athletics also left runners on in the bottom half of the 11th. Oakland left eight men on base and went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. As for Seattle, they left nine on base and went 0-9 with RISP.
After Gordon’s homer in the top of the 12th, Mariners’ All-Star closer Edwin Diaz came in and shut the door on the A’s, earning his 47th save on the campaign. Despite the loss, the A’s still picked up a game on the Mariners, winning two out of three in the series. On June 15th, Oakland was a season-high 11 games back of Seattle for the second Wild Card spot. Since then, they’ve grabbed that Wild Card spot and picked up 13.5 games on their division rivals. “There’s a little different feel when we are both competing for the same spot,” Olson said about their series against the Mariners. “We won two games against a good team and you know just didn’t get it today. Missed a couple of opportunities. We’ll just come back Friday against the Astros ready to roll.”
The A’s welcome Houston into town with first place in the AL West up for grabs. Back on June 19, the A’s were a season-high 12 games back of the Astros. They now find themselves just 1.5 games behind the division leaders. They’ve made up 10.5 games in that span. “Every game that we go out there and play, they are ready to play. So, maybe there’s a little bit more to it for the weekend series,” Melvin said about the upcoming series against Houston. “I think we’re going to have a few more people in the crowd against the team that’s in first place and the world champions. But I think based on where we came from, and where we are now, every game is a big game because we have to keep winning.”
Oakland opens the series with Edwin Jackson (4-2, 2.48) on the bump. The veteran has provided quite a lift for the rotation since his first start for the club back on June 25. Houston counters with All-Star starter Charlie Morton (12-3, 2.88). The three-game series begins Friday night with the first pitch set for 7:05 at the Oakland Coliseum.
Before Wednesday’s game, the Mariners placed ace James Paxton on the 10-day DL with a left forearm bruise. He was forced to leave his start on Tuesday night after facing just three batters. The left-hander took a line drive to the left arm off the bat of Jed Lowrie. It’s a tough blow for the Mariners, who find themselves fighting for a playoff spot. It is unknown how much time Paxton will miss. The 29-year-old starter has emerged as one of the top pitchers in all of baseball this season. His 2018 stats include a 10-5 record, 3.68 ERA and 176 strikeouts. He also tossed one of the three no-hitters this season, doing so on May 8 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Over the past 14 games, the Athletics’ starting pitchers have provided a real spark for the team. In that span, they own an 8-1 record, 1.84 ERA and a .205 batting average against. In eight of those 14 starts, the starter has allowed one run or less in an outing. “We’ve all (starters) kind of been feeding off each other lately, where you don’t want to be the weak link, you want to be the guy that continues to go out there and give your team a chance to win,” Anderson said. “That’s whenever teams are going their best. Whenever every starter feeds off each other and you want to match or do better than the next guy.”
Chapman, who hit a double in the bottom of the sixth inning, extended his hitting streak to 13 games. He also carries a 29-game on-base streak.
Diaz, who recorded his 47th save of 2018 on Wednesday, continues to inch closer to the all-time, single-season saves record of 62 held by Francisco Rodriguez back in 2008 with the Los Angeles Angels. The young Mariners’ closer is now 47-for-50 in saves attempts this season. He also owns a 1.95 ERA and 103 strikeouts in only 60 innings. His strikeout total is second most among relievers behind the Brewers Josh Hader. With one more save, he’ll tie the Mariners’ single-season franchise save record held by Fernando Rodney back in 2014.