BY John Hickey 07:13PM 04/23/2011

A’s break loose against Vargas

Saunders’ inability to hold onto sinking liner in fourth put Seattle in a hole from which it did not escape during 9-1 loss to Oakland.

Jason Vargas struggled Saturday night when he didn't get sufficient help from his defense. / Getty Images

For the third time this season, the Mariners were in position to stretch a winning streak to three games.

For the third time, the Seattle pitching wasn’t up to it, although in the case of Saturday starter Jason Vargas, the defense playing behind him both helped him, then torpedoed him in a 9-1 win for Oakland over the Mariners.

The cumulative score in the three games after two-game Seattle winning streaks has seen the Mariners on the short end to the tune of 24-5.

“We didn’t play a very good game tonight,” manager Eric Wedge said. “We need to do a better job.”

In the third inning, with one Oakland run already in, Vargas got a boost from right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, whose right arm is such a weapon that the fastest member of the A’s, Coco Crisp held up rather than test that arm.

Crisp began the play at second base after a double that had tied the game at one, snapping a streak of scoreless innings by Seattle pitching at 24, the seventh-longest such streak in club history. Daric Barton of the A’s walked, and Conor Jackson followed with a single to right.

Third base coach Mike Gallego cranked up his arm, giving Crisp the clearance to try and score the go-ahead run. Crisp, however, has been around long enough to have major respect for Ichiro’s arm, and opted to hold up. Vargas then got cleanup hitter Josh Willingham to fly out meekly, keeping the game at one-all.

An inning later, however, things went wrong for Vargas in a major way. On a 3-2 pitch to Kurt Suzuki, Vargas thought he’d gotten a strikeout, but he didn’t get that call from home plate umpire Ed Rapuano and Suzuki walked. That led to a two-out at-bat for Kevin Kouzmanoff, who watched Suzuki steal second.

Kouzmanoff followed with a sinking line drive into center that Michael Saunders raced to get in position for. Saunders got to the right spot, then made a head-first dive, glove extended, for the ball and for what should have been the third out. Saunders wound up getting his glove too far under the ball, however. It nicked off the side of his glove, then hit off Saunders himself, falling for an RBI single and a 2-1 Oakland lead.

“It was a tough play, but I thought he was going to catch it,” Wedge said. “He made a nice dive for the ball, but he just wasn’t able to keep it in his glove.”

One pitch later it was 4-1 when Cliff Pennington cracked his first home run of the season off Vargas.

Vargas wasn’t much concerned about the catch that wasn’t made. He was bothered, however, by the pitches that weren’t made. He gave up a two-out walk in the third and a one-out walk in the fourth, and both scored, as did a leadoff walk in the sixth.

“I’ve got to make better pitches, do a better job with those situations,” Vargas said. “I’m the starting pitcher. I can control those things. For me today, I didn’t do a good job putting guys away, especially with two out.”

The sixth inning saw the A’s knock Vargas, now 0-2 and winless since last Aug. 14, out of the game with a walk and a single. Rookie reliever Josh Lueke took over and poured gasoline on the fire with Oakland erupting for five runs to put the game safely away. Lueke gave up four hits, including a three-run homer by the slumping Kouzmanoff, before the inning was over.

The game began as if the Mariners had a chance to extend their winning streak to three. While Vargas was pitching perfect ball in the first and second inning, the Mariners collected five hits and a walk against Oakland starter Trevor Cahill (3-0).

But Chone Figgins was thrown out at the plate while trying to score from first on a one-out double by Adam Kennedy in the first. In the second after Jack Wilson singled home Chris Gimenez for the game’s first run, Ichiro followed with a hit, but Figgins fouled out with two men on to close out the inning.

Things didn’t get much better from there. Saunders doubled with two out in the third, but was thrown out trying to steal third. And Ichiro doubled with one out in the fifth, but neither Figgins nor Kennedy could get him home while the game was still close

Shortly after Ichiro was left stranded, the A’s put their five-run inning together against Vargas and Lueke, and Seattle had no answer for that kind of offense.

Ichiro wound up with three more hits, giving him five in the last two games. That gets him to 28 hits for the year in his first 22 games, getting his average back over .300 at .304.

Twitter: @JHickey3


  • Anonymous

    Sounds like they should put in an O- guard at the fullback position, until the O-Line can jell.

  • SpudzDP

    A former UW QB, named Hugh said that it was the sloppy and weak play by Okung and Carpenter that forced our highly paid TE to block more.  Robinson’s injury explains it better.  Both factors made the first half hard to watch.  But I think the Seahawks will play better in Pittsburgh.  They will lose, but play better than they did in SF.

  • 3 Lions

    will they rollover or fight?