The Oakland A’s appeared to be cruising to a win behind Sonny Gray until it all unraveled in the eighth inning.
Before the game manager Bob Melvin had noted: “His stuff is as good in the eighth inning as it is in the second. His bite on his breaking ball and presence on the mound stay the same.”
Unfortunately, Gray didn’t make it until the eighth. Sean Doolittle started the frame and ended his night without recording an out. He faced four batters, all of whom scored. It was a rough line for the left-hander, but he certainly wasn’t helped when Yoenis Cespedes clanked a hard hit ball to left.
“You don’t see it often,” said Melvin of the poor outing for the lefty. “You’re going to have games where you don’t get it done.”
Doolittle added: “We made a mess of the eighth. We feel like that’s a game we should have won.”
In total, the Seattle Mariners grabbed five runs in the inning as they opened up a 7-4 advantage. It was a sloppy inning for the A’s, which included a pair of run-scoring wild pitches. “It was the snowball effect for sure,” said Josh Donaldson. “One thing kind of happened, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger.”
There was also a controversial call at the plate, and Derek Norris was knocked out of the game on the play with an injured toe. Melvin said after the game that Norris had fractured his left big toe. The manager didn’t rule out the possibility of a DL stint for the second-year catcher. Even before the injury to Norris, the club had been looking to add depth at the catching position. Ryan Cook noted of the potential loss of Norris: “He plays an integral role. The way he works with us is special.”
The night had started off promisingly for Oakland as rookie Sonny Gray had been staked to an early lead yet again. The 23-year-old right hander impressed through seven innings as he allowed two runs on two hits, and recorded seven strikeouts while walking two.
“He pitched great again,” said Melvin. “It’s good to see. He’s got some presence, and certainly has the stuff.”
Meanwhile Joe Saunders, who took the mound for the Mariners, was not sharp as recent history would suggest.
Heading into the game, in his last five outings Saunders had only made it past the fifth inning once. Against the A’s, it looked as though he might not make it out of the first. The big blow came off the bat of Donaldson, who cracked a two-run home run to left field. Saunders ended up lasting six innings as he allowed four runs on 10 hits while striking out two and walking three.
“We had him on the ropes a couple of times, but we could have done more damage,” commented Melvin.
The A’s (71-54, .568) now sit 1.5 games behind the Texas Rangers (73-53, .579) in the AL West standings after the Rangers topped the Houston Astros 4-2.
The A’s grabbed a three-run lead just three batters into the game as Jed Lowrie, who was the DH, leadoff with a triple. Norris then made it 1-0 as he slashed a single to right field. Donaldson, who was hitting .500 (7-for-14) off Saunders entering the game, then came to the plate and crushed his 18th home run of the season to give the team a 3-0 advantage.
Freiman then added a fourth as he connected on his fourth home run of the season and his second in three games. Saunders needed 40 pitches to work through the first, and that included recording an out via a pickoff of Chris Young.
The Mariners first got on the board in the third. After Michael Saunders had reached on a walk, Gray served up a two-out home run to Nick Franklin to cut the A’s lead to 4-2. In the bottom half of the inning, Alberto Callaspo lead off with a single and Eric Sogard dropped down a bunt that hugged the first base line, but Oakland was unable to add to its lead.
In the eighth inning the wheels fell off for the A’s bullpen. Doolittle, who came on to relieve Gray, allowed four straight hits as the Mariners tied the game and Melvin called in Ryan Cook. The right-hander couldn’t seem to locate his pitches, however, and was only able to record a single out as he uncorked a pair of run-scoring wild pitches.
“That’s baseball,” said Donaldson. “It’s going to happen sometimes, and it was kind of a weird inning. I know next time they get out there, we’ll expect them to put up a zero.”
Doolittle added: “Maybe we both got it out of our system in one night.”
Jesse Chavez finally closed out the eighth with a pop out and strikeout. The A’s were unable to add on in the bottom half of the eighth inning, and in the ninth Danny Farquhar retired the A’s in order.
In game three of the series, A.J. Griffin (10-8, 3.76 ERA), who will be making a team-leading 26th start, gets the call. In his last outing, Griffin ended up with a no decision as he tossed five innings and allowed one unearned run on four hits while walking five. He’s now issued 11 free passes in his last two starts. Griffin has also allowed 12 home runs in his past eight starts, and has given up 28 on the season. That’s tied with Joe Blanton for most in all of baseball.
The Mariners will send out right-hander Hisahsi Iwakuma (11-6, 2.95 ERA) for the final game of the series. The 32-year-old Iwakuma beat the Rangers is his last start as he went seven innings and allowed one runs while racking up eight strikeouts. Iwakuma has already faced Oakland twice in 2013, and the A’s beat him at the Coliseum in June, but lost to him at Safeco Field in Seattle back in May.