The Oakland Athletics continue to throw youngsters at postseason contenders.
While they continue to be very competitive with the youthful roster, the Seattle Mariners got the best of an Oakland lineup that featured four rookie starters claiming a 3-2 victory Friday night.
The A’s (60-80) out-hit the Mariners (73-68) 7-6, with both teams stranding five apiece. After staring down long-lasting no-hit bids from the opposition three times in the past week, the Oakland offense showed early life against starter Hisashi Iwakuma, who has enjoyed great success in the Coliseum.
Daniel Mengden showed signs of life that have few and far between as well, battling through 5 strong in the face of constant adversity.
The 23 year-old said that, physically, he felt as good as he has in some time — as shown by his fastball velocity being back into the mid-90s — saying that he felt like he may have had another inning left in his arm:
“(My) last couple outings haven’t been good, so this is a big step forward. I might have three or four starts left, so just trying to get better every start, gain some experience, and just try to get better every time.”
It was a highly laborious yet productive outing from Mengden (L, 1-7, 6.39 ERA), who used 100 pitches to get through his 5 two-run frames. After allowing 30 runs over 25-2/3 innings (10.52 ERA) in his last six major league starts, the Houston native showed a resiliency he has lacked since June.
Manager Bob Melvin, who had reliever Daniel Coulombe warming up to start the fifth, was impressed by the starter’s ability to settle in:
“It didn’t appear like we were going to get five innings out of him. His last two innings were, by far, his best — attacked the trike zone a lot more. You could see his confidence went up in the last couple innings. … He can hang his hat on those last two innings, he pitched well.”
Despite a sharpness he hasn’t featured since early July, the top of the Mariners order made Mengden sweat immediately, coaxing 16 pitches from his right arm three batters into the night.
After a line-out on the sixth pitch of Kyle Seager’s ensuing at-bat the Oakland starter headed to the home dugout with three outs, one run and 35 throws on the ledger.
The rookie hurler was heavily taxed again in the third, needing 24 pitches to wiggle out of a bases-loaded jam without a runner scoring following a Nori Aoki home run (2) to lead off the inning.
A strikeout of Leonys Martin, however, did not just end the threat it initiated a stretch of seven consecutive Mariners hitters to be retired by Mengden bringing his night to a close. He finished with five hits and two walks allowed while striking out six — the most he has fanned since July 8.
The Seattle starter’s outing could not have gone much more different, as he was not forced to throw more than 15 pitches in any single inning until the fifth.
In that fifth, though, a one-out bloop from Max Muncy found a patch of grass in shallow center, landing between four onrushing Seattle defenders. Catcher Bruce Maxwell, who enjoyed the best game of his young career going 3-for-3 with a RBI, beat the shift with a single down the third-base line setting up fellow rookie Joey Wendle, who singled in the first A’s run.
The skipper offered a glowing review of the rookie duo:
“Maxi had a great game, that’s the best game he’s had by far. I think Joey — his first at-bat, he saw eight pitches and ended up getting a hit — it seemed like he had a good at-bat every time up there.”
Maxwell answered a solo homer from Mike Zunino (10) in the seventh, hammering a double over the head of Martin and up against center-field wall driving in Muncy, who finished 1-for-2 with a walk.
Wendle, whose ability to find the hole and add speed to the base paths will keep him in the lead-off spot “for now,” added a 2-for-4, one-RBI performance.
With 6-2/3 innings and two runs surrendered, Iwakuma (W, 15-11, 3.96 ERA), who struck out five while allowing seven hits and one walk, improved to 6-1 with a 3.12 ERA in seven starts in Oakland.
“That’s what we’ve seen out of him. … When you feel like you have a beat on him, and you’re going to score some runs off of him, he makes a big pitch.”
The A’s rigthy has struggled at the hands of the M’s this season, going 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts.
“King Felix’s” lack of 2016 success against Oakland has been the product of poor defense rather than poor pitching — the Seattle ace does not have a decision in two starts, with just four of his eight runs allowed being earned.