It was billed as an ace-versus-ace, marquee match-up.
Kendall Graveman was saddled with a season-high eight runs allowed as the Seattle bats hit him hard from the get-go. Showing their well-balanced attack, the Mariners (74-68) got hits from all but two starters, while the other seven collected multi-hit games.
The Athletics (60-81), on the other hand, suffered through their seemingly standard struggles against “King Felix,” as the ace blew through them for his first win in the rivalry this season. A trio of rookies combined for all three runs for the home squad, none of which coming with Hernandez on the mound.
In his constant search for positives — even in a game in which his team allowed a double-digit run total for a 15th time this season — manager Bob Melvin discussed the role played by his youngsters:
“That’s what this time is all about. Obviously, you want to win every game you can, but these guys are being impactful and playing for their future.”
Hernandez (W, 16-5, 3.58 ERA) entered the game with a career 22-8 record and 2.67 ERA against the green and gold — 11-3, 2.67 ERA in Oakland. In his 42 starts against the A’s, the 2010 AL CY Young Award winner has averaged just under seven innings per outing while relinquishing a hair over two runs, making his 6-inning shutout start barely better than his average.
The Mariner offense, which came in No. 9 in the majors with 665 runs scored, was anything but average, littering the the scoreboard with crooked numbers. Bolstered by their 17-hit barrage, the M’s posted four multi-run innings — three of them charged to the record of Graveman (10-10, 4.13 ERA).
The Alabama native, who was touched for 12 hits, while being credited with more walks (3) than strikeouts (1) for the first time since July 29, said that his inability to throw strike one put him behind the eight-ball:
“I didn’t get ahead of hitters, like I’ve been. Just, overall, didn’t locate as well as I have in the past. … Got to go back to work, and see if we can’t get back to the good sink and the good ground balls and let the defense play behind me — I kinda got away from that today.”
The afternoon had a bleak beginning for the Oakland starter, when he was punched for a pair of well-struck knocks six pitches into the game. And, after coaxing a double play from All-Star Robinson Cano, the solid contact came right back on a booming double from Nelson Cruz. An overly aggressive Kyle Seager was caught rounding first on an RBI single to bring the first to an end despite four of the five Seattle batters of the inning reaching base.
Melvin said that his hurler’s struggles are nothing more than the product of a bump in what has been a smooth road of late:
“There’s some (Mariners hitters) with some good numbers off of him, but the way he’s been pitching that shouldn’t be a factor. It was just one of those games where he was a little bit off and didn’t have command of his fastball like he normally does.”
Graveman responded to a four-run third, in which Seattle sent nine batters to the plate, by retiring eight of the next nine faced (including a ground-out from Ketel Marte to end the third), but never got an out in the sixth. Instead, the righty was relieved after surrendering three straight hits.
After starting the second half 5-2, the 25 year-old has now lost consecutive decisions for the first time since May 14 and 19.
Leading the way in the eruption Saturday were Cruz and Nori Aoki, each of whom finished with three hits taking responsibility for five runs apiece — Aoki with three runs and two RBIs, and Cruz with three RBIs and two runs. Seager, who had two hits if his own, recorded the only Mariner home run (28) on a seventh-inning solo shot.
Healy, though, was the big star — after scoring Oakland’s first run on a Wendle single in the seventh he added on, crushing a two-run home run (8) in the eighth.
He said of his improvement on the offensive end:
“As I’m seeing these teams for a second and sometimes third time, I have video of myself against their pitchers. … Then being able, with two strikes, to buckle down and have a quality at-bat, and put the ball in play and let something good happen.”
“These guys are looking for an opportunity to make a name for themselves. … It’s good to see. We feel like we have some guys that can be factors for us next year, and they’re proving (that they can be), and showing that they want to be.”
Having already clinched a losing home stand, the green and gold will look to stave off a sweep when they send Raul Alcantara (0-1, 15.00 ERA), who was pummeled by the Boston Red Sox in his big league debut, to the bump for Sunday afternoon’s finale.
The Oakland offense, which has been held under four runs in six the first eight games in the stand, will look to solve James Paxton (4-6, 4.03 ERA) in support of Alcantara in the second start of his career.