Mariners edge sizzling A’s to end streak

OAKLAND COLISEUM — Fans attending Friday night’s game were guaranteed post-game fireworks with a superhero theme.

Unfortunately, the team wearing the capes were the Seattle Mariners, namely pitcher Joe Saunders and rookie catcher Mike Zunino.

Saunders held the A’s offense in check while Zunino had two hits including his first Major League home run as the Mariners edged the A’s 3-2, ending their 11-game home win streak.

Saunders, entered the game with a 0-4 road record and a 9.00 ERA. The Mariners’ lefty is so good at home his nickname is Safeco Joe. Given that the corporate name of the Coliseum is O.co, that suited Saunders just fine.

He pitched seven innings scattering only five hits and a run, a walk, and four strikeouts to get that first elusive road victory:

Mariners pitcher Joe Saunders

Audio:Ryan Leong/SFBay

“I pride myself on being a good pitcher on the road so for me, it was about throwing up zeros against a really good quality team, quality hitters and they work you good. They make you pay for mistakes so it was just a matter of me going out there throwing strikes, throwing my game.”

The A’s didn’t play poorly, they just weren’t as good as the opposition. Manager Bob Melvin says there was no hangover effect from the 18-inning game against the Yankees and not taking batting practice had no effect on the outcome:

A’s manager Bob Melvin

Video: CSN Calfornia

“I thought everything was good I didn’t feel any difference. Saunders pitched well, Malone pitched well, really it was the ball  Zunino hit.”

Tommy Milone had another quality start, keeping in line with the rest of the rotation.Though Milone lost, he worked 6-2/3 innings, allowing only five hits and two runs, walking three and striking out four.

Even with the loss, the A’s are 21-6 over the last 27 games. Starters are 15-4 with a 2.60 ERA. Milone said of his outing:

A’s pitcher Tommy Milone

Video: CSN California

“I wish I had gone further. I’m glad I was able to get that far. I felt good, glad I was able to get going and get into the seventh and keep the team in the game.”

Chris Young, batting leadoff and filling in for Coco Crisp who is still nursing a right heel bruise, was 3-for-3 and a triple short of the cycle. His eighth-inning home run reached the second deck in left field.

This was a game the Athletics really missed Crisp and Josh Donaldson, out with an injured hamstring. Donaldson is (7-for-14) in his career vs. Saunders and Crisp is a 9-for-30 (.300)  hitter against Saunders. Perhaps the lack of those bats in the lineup was one of the reasons the A’s didn’t score more runs.

Young — like the rest of the A’s — is used to winning games of late and explains why it’s hard to lose:

A’s center fielder Chris Young

Audio: Ryan Leong/SFBay

“Every loss is tough. We played a close game and battled, it just doesn’t always work out. The majority of the time we’ve been in that situation we’ve been able to come through and tough it out. It just not going to happen 100 percent of the time but it doesn’t change the character of the team. You still have that fight about you and you still never believe you’re out of a game.”

The A’s other run scored almost by accident. With two outs in the fifth and Adam Rosales on first base, Eric Sogard hit a fly ball to right. Neither second baseman Mike Franklin or right fielder Jason Bay communicated who would catch the ball so they collided into each other and the ball bounced towards the right field foul line giving Rosales plenty of time to score.

Oakland caught a bad break in the second inning. After a double by Nate Freiman, Derek Norris singled to center. The ball was bobbled momentarily by center fielder Michael Saunders. Third base coach Mike Gallego held up Freiman initially and it took the big man too much effort to get his momentum going again. He was tagged out at the plate by Zunino on a headfirst slide.

The Mariners go ahead run scored in the eighth on a infield single, a hard hit ball off Freiman allowing Franklin to score from third.

Despite the loss, the A’s are still tied with the Boston Red Sox for the best record in the American League and maintain a two-game lead in the West over the Texas Rangers.

Notes

The A’s 11-game home win streak was the third longest in Oakland history and the longest since Aug. 13 to Sept. 14, 2002 when they won 12 straight. … Milone is 3-1 with a 3.49 ERA (15 ER in 38.2 IP) over his last six starts but has received three or fewer runs of support in nine of his 14 starts. … Before Young’s 3-for-3 performance he was 4-for-49 (.082) in his previous 14 games.