A’s rope Paxton, pile nine runs on Seattle

Cesar Valdez hadn’t made a start in the major leagues since 2010, and it had seemed nearly that long since James Paxton had allowed a run.

Actually, it had only been the first 21 innings of the season for Paxton (ND, 2-0, 1.78 ERA) who came into Thursday’s AL West showdown with the game’s lowest WHIP (0.57) to go along with his perfect 0.00 ERA. The Oakland Athletics (8-8) changed that, though, jumping all over the veteran lefty and saddling him with his first five runs allowed in 2017.

Though manager Bob Melvin pulled Valdez (ND, 0-0, 6.75 ERA) prior to the sixth inning, the Oakland bullpen finished the overtime shift, working the Seattle Mariners (7-10) 9-6.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.

Valdez needed 76 pitches to get through 4 innings of five-hit ball, allowing three earned runs. Through team translator Juan Dorado, he said:

“It was very exciting for me to get to pitch out here in the major leagues. For the last seven years I didn’t think I was going to get a chance to come back and actually pitch in the major leagues.”

It was a bleak beginning to his first big league inning in nearly a decade. The 32-year-old rookie gave up a line-drive single on the second pitch he threw. Four pitches later he gave up another single with Seattle lead-off man Jarrod Dyson, who moved to second on a fly out to right field, scoring on the Robinson Cano single.

The journeyman dug deep, however, avoiding further damage getting the next two All-Stars, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager, without threat. And he did so without the benefit of command at the bottom of the strike zone. Said Valdez:

“I was leaving the ball up — the ball was getting a little bit higher on me — I put that on myself to locate my pitches, to execute.”

Manager Bob Melvin said he thought Valdez gave his club enough for a first start in nearly seven years:

“Valdez got it under control after giving up three quick runs. Eighty pitches is the most he had thrown, he was at 76 (when we removed him) and we’re in a tied game, so he really does his job.

The Dominican Republic native saw the ERA next to his name rise after giving up two more in the second. Paxton saw one appear next to his own name the next inning.

Jaff Decker led off the third off the frame, rolling a single up the middle. Rajai Davis and Adam Rosales each followed with line-drive singles to right, the latter sending home the first run tallied to Paxton’s record. Ryon Healy, who has now gone 5-for-7 with three RBIs in two games since getting back-to-back days off, delivered a huge blow for the home nine lining a two-out double into the left-field corner for an add-on run.

The skipper said he had little worry his second-year slugger would rebound from an early start:

“We gave him a little time off to work on some things, got a couple pinch-hits for him, and he’s off to the races again. It wasn’t a concern, but everybody goes through these things.”

Healy picked up another RBI knock in the fifth, after a sacrifice fly from Rosales. He finished with three hits and a walk in four trips to the plate to go with two RBIs.

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Davis, who went 2-for-5 with two runs scored, said having Healy swinging a hot bat is big got the overall flow of the offense:

“That means a lot more runs for us — he’s a run producer.”

The good swings have traveled through the lineup like a bad flu, the speedy center fielder added:

 “We’ve got a lot of confident guys right now. … We’re not missing mistakes.”

They have hit mistakes, but they haven’t hit only the mistakes. The Oakland offense has compiled a monstrous 25 hits and 18 runs in the past two games, since Healy was re-inserted into the starting lineup.

Mariners shortstop Taylor Motter tied the game up in the sixth with a two-run home run (4) off Frankie Montas, who has scuffled early coughing up what is now five earned runs in 9-2/3 (4.66 ERA). Ryan Dull (W, 1-1, 3.86 ERA) bailed the fireballer out, getting the last two outs of the sixth.

Seattle reliever, and former-Athletic, Evan Scribner (L, 0-2, 10.13) was saddled with the loss giving up one run in 1-2/3 innings.

Trevor Plouffe gave the green and gold some breathing room with a three-run blast (3) in the seventh negating a ninth-inning run scored by Danny Valencia, who spent 2015 and 2016 with the A’s.

On deck

The M’s and A’s go at it again Friday night. Sean Manaea (0-1, 5.51 ERA) gets the starting nod in search of his first win of the season — the “Throwin’ Samoan” has scored more wins (2) than any other team in his young career. Hisashi Iwakuma (0-1, 5.40 ERA), who is 6-1 with a 3.12 ERA in seven games at the Coliseum, gets the ball for Seattle.

Notes

After 11 consecutive game with an error, the Oakland Athletics have now played perfect defense in consecutive games. … Second baseman Jed Lowrie led the charge with his 69th consecutive error-less game. That streak is the fourth-longest in Oakland A’s history. … The A’s now have a .500 record (8-8), the last time the team was above .500 was one year ago — April 30, 2016 (13-12). … A’s Center fielder Rajai Davis was removed from the game in the ninth after experiencing some tightness in his hamstring. He said he doesn’t expect the injury to linger, but manager Bob Melvin said he would not be in the starting lineup Friday.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.