This was another one of those games Thursday night for the Seattle Mariners that, if viewed in isolation, might not seem so bad.
Veteran Oakland lefty Scott Kazmir is among the American League leaders in earned-run average. So mustering little in a 4-0 loss — OK, it happens.
Except it’s hard to take a quiet night against Kazmir in isolation. This is the 48th time in 79 games the Mariners failed to score four runs. Note, too, the American League average was 4.22 prior to Thursday’s games.
This was also the sixth shutout loss in the last four weeks.
So it’s not always Kazmir who was, yes, in top form. He permitted just two hits, both by Franklin Gutierrez, in eight innings, which merely evened his record at 5-5 despite lowering his ERA to 2.56.
With Kazmir at 105 pitches, the Athletics closed out their victory with Edward Mujica in the ninth inning.
The Mariners didn’t get a runner until Gutierrez’s one-out double to right in the fifth inning. That was also the first ball to reach the outfield against Kazmir as he breezed through the first 13 hitters.
Gutierrez remained at second when Mark Trumbo chased an outside 2-2 pitch, and Logan Morrison grounded out to second. Gutierrez also had a leadoff single in the eighth.
Mariners lefty Roenis Elias, with Hisashi Iwakuma poised to return from the disabled list, entered the game possibly needing a strong outing to hold his place in the rotation after two shellings over his three previous starts.
Elias (4-6) gave up just three hits in six innings, and one was a line-hugging grounder and another was a bloop into right on a defensive swing. He also issued just one walk.
The Athletics turned that into three runs.
Tom Wilhelmsen replaced Elias to start the seventh and had another rocky outing in yielding a single and a triple that accounted for Oakland’s final run.
Wilhelmsen has allowed nine runs and 11 hits over 62/3 innings in his last seven appearances, which turned a 1.96 ERA into an unsightly 4.68.
The game’s decisive moment occurred in the Oakland first inning when Elias issued a two-out walk to Ben Zobrist in the first inning after jumping ahead 1-2 in the count.
Billy Butler followed with a double to left on a grounder just fair past third base that moved Zobrist to third. Josh Phegley then flicked a two-run double into right field.
The two doubles were well-placed. Neither hit hard. But neither gets a chance to happen if Zobrist doesn’t battle back for a walk.
Phegley’s two-run double also ended the Mariners’ streak of 24 consecutive scoreless innings by their rotation over the three previous games.
Elias retired 12 in row after Phegley’s double, but the streak ended with a bang when Marcus Semien hooked a 2-0 fastball for a two-out homer to left in the fifth inning.
And, OK, that was hit hard. It was Semien’s seventh homer of the season — and third against the Mariners.