Entering Monday’s game, the Athletics had allowed four runs in the previous four games.
The Mariners sent the previously overpowering Oakland pitchers reeling with a seven-run outburst, busting the bubble of Oakland’s seven-game winning streak, with a 7-1 bumping.
The A’s (72-84) could never piece together any semblance of a rally against Seattle (76-81), snuffed in the first and never given another chance by Athletic-killer Felix Hernandez (W, 6-5, 4.36 ERA), who recorded his 13th win in Oakland, the most ever by an opposing pitcher passing Tommy John‘s 12.
Of Hernandez’s effort, slowing the A’s offense which had averaged more than 5.5 runs per game during its recently deceased winning streak, manager Bob Melvin said:
“He kept the ball down, which he does. … When he keeps the ball down, he keeps it on the ground.”
Keeping the ball down was the goal for Oakland starter Daniel Gossett, as well. But he was not nearly as effective in doing so.
Through the first 16 starts of his big league career, Gossett (W, 4-10, 5.82 ERA) had allowed 16 home runs in 85-1/3 innings — one per every 5-1/3 innings. After four more in his 4-1/3-inning outing Monday — a single-game high — the rookie right-hander saw that that total balloon to 20, fewer only than Jharel Cotton (28) among A’s hurlers despite having yet to reach the 100-inning mark.
From the skipper’s vantage point, the problem was Gossett’s breaking ball, which spent too much time up in the zone and, as Melvin said, when you leave breaking balls up to a team as powerful as the Mariners you get hurt.
Gossett made no bones about it, accepting the full brunt of the loss:
“It was just poor pitching. No way to get around it, it was a poor performance. I’m letting the team down, letting myself down, with that performance.”
About his inability to get his breaking ball down, he added:
“If it wasn’t right down the middle, perfect pitch to hit, then it was in the dirt, it was buried. There was no in between.”
Catcher Bruce Maxwell, playing in his first game since kneeling during the National Anthem for the first time on Saturday, agreed with the sentiment. Gossett said the effort was particularly puzzling given his positive feeling departing the bullpen mound.
That could not have been further from the truth for Hernandez (W, 6-5, 4.36 ERA). The Seattle hurler told media following the game that his pregame warmup was perhaps the worst of his career, an opinion shared by manager Scott Servais. His bullpen session was so bad, in fact, that Hernandez warned his skipper that it was in the team’s best interest to have long man Andrew Albers loose and ready to go in the first.
As it turned out, Albers (S, 1, 3.19 ERA) — who pitched the final three innings to record the first major league save of his career — would relieve the former Cy Young winner. But not until Hernandez had tossed 6 two-hit, one-run innings.
Maxwell said the starter was as tough as ever to figure out:
“He just changed it up on us, he mixed it up on every pitch. I think we got a little over-aggressive — it’s tough when you’ve got a guy that’s sinking balls and changing speeds on you and throwing strikes while he’s doing it.”
Still, the A’s had a chance to deliver a major blow to his efforts in the first when Matt Joyce collected an infield single preceding a Jed Lowrie walk. As he has done so many times in Oakland, Hernandez earned a rally-killing double-play grounder from Khris Davis. Over the next four innings, “King Felix” allowed just one base runner, a second-inning walk of Ryon Healy, but immediately followed it with another double play.
Oakland second hit didn’t come until the sixth, after Seattle had long since unpacked its offense on Gossett with a quartet of home runs. That hit did put the A’s on the board, however, with Marcus Semien launching a solo homer (8) deep into the seats down the left field line.
Semien’s was the final salvo in a game that saw each of its eight runs come home on ringing dingers. The first of which off the bat of Mike Zunino (24), a three-run shot, was enough to topple the A’s season-long winning streak, but didn’t prevent Mitch Haniger from smothering a pair of his own (15, 16) — the second of which a two-run job. Yonder Alonso knocked his former team out of swinging distance with his own solo shot (26) in the fourth, bracketed by Haniger’s yard work.
The loss not only ended Oakland’s impressive winning streak, it also delayed what seems to be the inevitable — the A’s first winning month since April 2016.
The A’s and M’s go at it again Tuesday with James Paxton (12-5, 3.03 ERA) set to take on Daniel Mengden (2-1, 3.30 ERA), who has allowed just two earned runs in his last 22 innings pitched, spanning three starts. Paxton has lost both of his September starts, surrendering five earned runs in just 5 innings of work.
Slugging rookie Matt Olson, who was removed in the seventh inning of Sunday’s victory with a tight hamstring, may have taken his last at-bat of the season. Olson has hit 24 home runs in 59 games and including 13 in September, five shy of the all-time single-month record for a rookie.
Prior to the game, manager Bob Melvin said that the team is holding out hope that the 23-year-old first baseman will be available at some point during its final series of the season in Texas, but said that is unlikely:
“These things tend to be upwards of a week, at least. Hopefully it’s not the case, but there’s potentially of that. … There is no way he can play right now, so he won’t even be out on the field today and probably not for the next couple days.”
Following the game, Melvin said that an MRI revealed a grade 2 strain in Olson’s hamstring, adding that he is having a tough time moving and restating his opinion that Olson is likely done for the season. … Jharel Cotton, who was removed after 5 shutout innings Sunday, also had an MRI on his tight right throwing elbow. Melvin said that the results show no structural damage and Cotton is still expected to make a final start this season. … Announced for his first at-bat since kneeling in protest of perceived racial injustice, Bruce Maxwell received the loudest cheer of any batter on the night. He said:
“It was unexpected, from the negativity that I’ve gotten. It was refreshing — people actually care about people in this country, so that’s a good thing.”