A’s jump on Mariners, hold on for Earth Day win

The Oakland Athletics channeled all the elements on Earth Day, pushing the Seattle Mariners aside like the idea of a styrofoam plate or plastic grocery bag.

With their 4-3 win Sunday, the A’s (10-8) have clinched a winning homestand, despite losing the first three. They were carried, once again, by the continued emergence of a defense which had committed an error in 11 straight prior to its current four-game errorless streak.

The Mariners (7-12) have lost nine of their first 10 road games of 2017.

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

Having now won five straight, Adam Rosales said that the mood in the dugout is something to behold:

“That’s a great feeling, especially when you feel that team chemistry come together. I think all of us look forward to getting to the field right now — we can’t wait to get back to the field. We know we’re going to pick each other up.”

Wind

A man normally known for speed and hustle took flight another way.

Rosales, inserted into the lead-off position in the absence of Rajai Davis — who tweaked his left hamstring Thursday — jumped all over the third pitch of the game, sending a 1-1 splitter over the 388-foot marker in left-center for the lead-off home run (2).

Manager Bob Melvin spoke to Rosales’ play since being cast into an every shortstop role since Marcus Semien was placed on the disabled list on April 17:

“He brings a lot of energy to the table, he’s excited about the opportunity, he’s a terrific shortstop, and he’s swinging the bat well right now. It’s not surprising anybody anymore, that he’s playing as well as he is.”

In classic “Rosey” form, the veteran utility man — and acting every day shortstop — flew around the base paths like a cool Bay breeze getting from the batter’s box back to the plate in less than 16 seconds. About the speed, the 33-year-old joked “I though I was getting older.”

The solo homer matched one hit by Mariners All-Star Robinson Cano (3) with two down in the top of the first.

Fire

Ryon Healy was set ablaze after getting two days off — though he did appear has a pinch-hitter in each — to start this week. After Healy closed the season’s second week with an anemic .170 batting average, and more strikeouts (15) than hits (8) in 47 at-bats, manager Bob Melvin chose to give his second-year slugger back-to-back days off to start the games on Monday and Tuesday.

Since that move, the 25-year-old has collected seven hits in 15 trips to the plate (.467). That is not including his 2-for-3 performance as a late-inning replacement in those two off-days, but it is including a 2-for-4 performance Saturday.

Melvin said the team was never worried about Healy’s scuffle:

“It’s the first time he’s really struggled at the big league level. (We gave) him some time to work on some things and put that in the past … but the guy is a hitter. He’s an impactful guy every time he steps to the plate.

Adding on to Rosales’ homer, Healy hit his own in the first — a two-run shot (3). It is the first for the slugger since April 6.

Healy has not been the only A’s hitter to catch fire during the team’s current nine-game (having had one game rained out) homestand. Jed Lowrie slashed hits in three of his four chances, and has gone 6-for-12 (.500) during his current, albeit modest, three-game hitting streak.

The dynamic two-three duo accounted for five of their club’s eight hits.

Water

The A’s doused Seattle starter Ariel Miranda (L, 1-2, 4.35 ERA), who was coming of seven innings worth of shutout work in claiming a victory over the Miami Marlins his last time out.

Miranda suffered the shortest start of his young career, as he was pulled after serving up a single to the only hitter he faced in the fourth. He finished allowing seven hits and all four Oakland runs in his short stint, he also struck out three.

The Cuban lefty had a chance to keep his team and himself in the game, as A’s starter Jharel Cotton (W, 2-2, 4.76 ERA) was far his best. The rookie right-hander struggled to get strikes with his changeup and thus saw his strikeout numbers diminish — scoring two. In 6 complete, Cotton was tagged for six hits, two walks and two runs.

The skipper referred to his starter’s outing as “boxing,” adding that he got what he needed:

“He was, probably, not as in sync as he normally is, but gets us through six with a lead.”

Added Cotton:

“I felt like I was battling the entire game, but I still focused on throwing the ball over the plate. Of course, the most important thing is I gave my team a chance to win.”

Ryan Madson (S, 1, 1.23 ERA) got his first save of the season, needing four outs to do so.

Earth

Lowrie was a dual-threat, as he has been during his current 71-game errorless streak. Along with his three hits and two runs scores, he continued to wreak havoc on opposing team’s rallies. The eighth inning was when Lowrie made his greatest defensive impact on this game.

With Cano and Nelson Cruz on following a single and walk respectively, Lowrie made a strong turn on the feed from Rosales to turn two and slow the Seattle attack. But, after an RBI pinch-hit triple from Kyle Seager, the second baseman came up even bigger.

On a slow chopper up the middle, with Seager charging home carrying the game-tying run in his pocket, Lowrie expertly circled the second sack dirt to position himself for a throw to get Guillermo Heredia sprinting out the first 90. With a scoop and a sling, Lowrie got the speedy outfielder, celebrating with a fist pump on his way to the third base dugout.

Cotton said the play of the veteran infielder has carried the A’s in the early season. But said that the rest of the lineup has begun to catch up:

“He’s great defensively behind the entire staff. And, of course, his bat plays — he’s hot, really hot. I’m happy to see that, he’s going to keep this team together and keep it going like that with his at-bats. It’s fun to watch. From one to nine, it’s fun to watch.”

And the proof is in the pudding. During their current five-game winning streak the Oakland offense has scored 29 runs (5.8 per game) and scattered 45 hits (nine per game).

The key to the success, though, has been the defense whose recent run of flawless play coincides with that win streak. Said Rosales:

“We really need to be a strong pitching and defensive team, and that’s what we’re doing now — over the last week or so. … The team that makes the least amount of mistakes should win, we’re all major leaguers — we’re all good ball players.”

On deck

The A’s go for a four-game Seattle sweep and a 6-3 homestand in a Sunday matinee. Yovani Gallardo (0-2, 6.19 ERA) gets the assignment for the M’s, who face the task of tagging starter Andrew Triggs (3-0, 0.00 ERA) with his first earned run allowed this season — as the home nine did to James Paxton (2-0, 1.78 ERA) Thursday. Gallardo has never won in Oakland, going 0-2 with a 3.71 ERA in three starts.

Notes

Adam Rosales’ home run leading off the game for the A’s was the second of his career, each with Oakland. His first came on May 3, 2013 against the New York Yankees. … Manager Bob Melvin challenged an out call at first base in eighth. The call was overturned by the replay booth. It marks the first successful challenge by the A’s this season. … With a firs-inning single, Nelson Cruz extended his hit streak against the A’s to 11 games. The streak dates back to Aug. 13, 2016. He is 16-for-41 (.390) over that stretch.


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.