OAKLAND – Trying to push through another offensively disappointing season with a strong final week, the Seattle Mariners instead found themselves in another how-could-this-happen game Sunday.
The first two Mariners to bat in the seventh inning of a 2-all tie – Brendan Ryan and Trayvon Robinson – singled, at which point Seattle had 11 hits and the Oakland Athletics two.
Seattle blew that point-blank opportunity when Casper Wells, Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero each struck out, then lost, 5-2, on late home runs by Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick.
And there it was, the 86th loss of the season for a team that has strong pitching, solid defense … and an offensive attack incapable of scoring consistently.
“You put guys on first and third base and can’t get even one run in? That’s never a good thing,” Justin Smoak said. “It’s frustrating for everybody.
“We’re all trying our best to make things happen, and when you can’t get it done, it hurts. We get hits there, we chase their pitcher. We make it harder for them to come back.”
Tied into the bottom of the eighth inning, the Mariners used Charlie Furbush to get the first out, then brought in right-hander Shawn Kelley to face Cespedes.
“I got ahead of him 1-2 on a fastball up that he just got a piece of, but I make my living with the two-strike slider,” Kelley said. “I threw it, probably didn’t get it down enough, and he did his job.”
Cespedes hit a moon shot to left that stayed fair and put Oakland ahead for good.
“It’s pretty crazy, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Kelley said of the Athletics in this series. “I don’t like to lose, but to lose in this fashion, it’s no fun.”
Taken out of the game, Kelley kicked over a water cooler, threw his glove at the wall.
“I was mad, I’m still mad,” Kelley said. “We lost a lot of close games on this trip, and to feel like you’re just another guy who they do that too? It didn’t sit well.”
Lucas Luetge replaced Kelley, gave up a single and then Reddick’s 32nd home run.
“Missed opportunities have been the stories of our season,” manager Eric Wedge said. “We got 11 hits and two runs? We’ve got to do better. Sometimes you’ve just got to put the ball in play for a run.
“We’re a little short right now.”
Franklin Gutierrez opened the game with a double but, three outs later, remained at second base – the first indication this was going to be one of those games.
An inning later, Smoak opened with the first of his two hits, took second on Miguel Olivo’s one-out single. Trailing 2-0, the Mariners needed a clutch hit – and got one.
Rookie Carlos Triunfel singled. Smoak froze for an instant at second base, then tried to scored on right-fielder Reddick’s arm, and lost.
Out at the plate. Another rally busted.
“I had to make sure he didn’t catch it, but I guess he bobbled it and Jeff (Datz) waved me home,” Smoak said. “Reddick’s got a cannon out there, but his throw had to be perfect to get me.
“It was perfect.”
Throughout all this, rookie Erasmo Ramirez was getting by on will and toughness. His usual impeccable command wasn’t there – he walked four batters in 6 innings.
Still, after giving up two first-inning runs, on a walk, triple and sacrifice fly, Ramirez pitched his way through everything Oakland threw at him.
“I had a bad first inning and after that I knew I couldn’t give up any more runs, so I felt that pressure,” Ramirez said. “I focused on keeping the ball down. I made a few adjustments.”
Ramirez struck out Brandon Moss with a runner at third base to end the third inning, walked two in the fifth and then got Coco Crisp to ground into a double play.
One out into the seventh inning, on his 100th pitch of a warm afternoon, Ramirez allowed a single and was pulled from the game.
“ ‘Gritty’ is a good word for him,” Wedge said. “He’d get in trouble but come back and make the pitch to get out of it. He righted himself.”
Seattle’s offense could not, and has not.
Three Mariners, Gutierrez, Wells and Smoak, had two hits apiece. Seager picked up his 84th RBI, Smoak his 50th. Not good firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @LarryLarue