Mariners edge A’s in September marathon

It took over 300 pitches, 28 hits and two errors. It had to end.

The A’s lost to Seattle 11-8 in a game that took nearly four hours to complete, with constant hitting and 15 pitchers. This one was especially ugly, even for a team setting new standards of baseball repulsiveness.

Both Oakland and Seattle are in the cellar of American League standings, and the game didn’t matter one bit, really. That didn’t stop A’s manager Bob Melvin, against the wishes of a few very vocal fans, to argue a call in the eighth inning.

It would have been second and third when it was ruled that third baseman Danny Valencia foul-tipped a pitch that replays showed was clearly off the glove of catcher John Hicks.

The game, for the better part, is a meaningless, the A’s six¬†games behind the fourth place Mariners, who are 10 games behind the first place Astros. Neither team will play into October.

No matter, Melvin is trying to support the team he leads.

But support was only a small fraction of what was needed. Oakland starter Aaron Brooks (L, 1-2, 6.91 ERA) threw 50 pitches in 2-1/3 innings, allowing six runs on six hits.

Jose Ramirez (W, 1-0, 9.64 ERA) sports the win despite only pitching 1-2/3 innings.

The score after three, 7-5 favoring the Mariners. The score after six was a little closer, 9-8. There was no end in sight, even by the request for cracker jacks during stretch period.

Valencia had himself a night, though, posting the A’s first runs with a grand slam in the first inning. He’s in the midst of a nine game hitting streak, and has 22 multi-hit games since arriving in Oakland via waivers.

He’s been solid on defense, which is a big deal for a team who leads major league baseball with 105 errors, and enters a prolific category after his grand slam.

Only Mark McGwire, Matt Stairs, Dave Kingman and Brandon Moss have hit a grand slam during the first inning for the A’s in club history.

Not bad company by any measure.

Valencia owns a .302 batting average since being claimed by Oakland, and a .898 OPS. He’s been the best hitter on the team by a lot, and should be a staple next season.

What’s more, Brett Lawrie has moved over to second base, and has played better all around since making the switch. Marcus Semien still appears to be a budding star, and has been relatively flawless on defense as well.

The addition has ramifications that are much larger than they initially appear. They’re a semblance to a Tyrannosaurus chasing a Jeep, such as in the first Jurassic Park.

Melvin said:

“They’ve been doing it for a while now, power-wise, and productive at bats. … When you score that many runs, you expect to win the game. We just couldn’t hold them down.”

The pair of bright spots on Oakland’s pitching staff were Sean Doolittle and rookie Ryan Dull. Both recorded a pair of strikeouts and neither allowed a baserunner.

The clean frames came during the sixth and the seventh innings, and the A’s have sorely needed anchors out of the bullpen.

Doolittle has missed the bulk of the season with various injuries, and Dull has been a welcome surprise since being called up September 1st.

For all the sorrow-filled nights in the Oakland clubhouse, there are several promising signs. A healthy and productive Doolittle, and the sustained success of Dull would be huge.

Just as big as sustained success from Valencia, which seems plausible based on his long-term numbers.

First baseman Mark Canha has also steadied his stuff, which fluctuated early in the year and was a likely result of inconsistent at bats. Canha is hitting .315 over his last 22 games, great news for the A’s future.

It was clear early on that 2015 was not going to be a good year. Coco Crisp was injured quite a bit, and the bug started to open the year. He played Friday night, scoring as a pinch hitter after Semien tripled to right field.

Even with the agonizing loss, one that further pummels the A’s morale, Oakland is becoming more consistent.

Consistent losers, sure. But consistent hitters, defenders, and consistent efforts all around.

The A’s face a tough task Saturday, facing Felix Hernandez while starting Jesse Chavez, who has struggled down the stretch in each of the last two seasons.


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