Rather than a dull thud, the Mariners checked off a moribund half-season Sunday in Oakland with a sad cringe, a 13th inning, 2-1 loss to the A’s that was a metaphor for 2012 — a hapless squandering of quality pitching with inept hitting.
Josh Reddick’s double scored Jemile Weeks, who singled off the fifth Mariners pitcher, Oliver Perez, for the winning run in a game dominated by potent starting pitching from Seattle’s Felix Hernandez and Oakland’s Bartolo Colon.
Granted, they were pitching against the American League’s two worst offenses (Seattle 13th in team batting average at .230, Oakland 14th at .225), but each would have dominated major league teams. Colon, 39, threw an incredible 70 strikes in 93 pitches through 7.2 innings. Even though the Mariners hitters knew what was coming and where it was going, they could do little.
After new leadoff hitter Dustin Ackley opened the game with a single, Colon retired the next 17 Mariners before until Ackley singled again with two outs in the sixth. Ichiro blooped a single behind third base that hit the the left field foul line, Ackley reaching third. Michael Saunders singled to right for what proved to be the Mariners’ only run. Ichiro reached third on the hit but was stranded there when Miguel Olivo grounded out.
Several more opportunities arose, but as the game wore on, Mariners hitters appeared to wear out. The 11th was particularly odious, Saunders, John Jaso and Kyle Seager all striking out in terrible at-bats.
“We had some good ABs early, but later on, it got worse,” manager Eric Wedge said. “In that type of game, you gotta come through, and we didn’t do it. Felix was strong today, the bullpen was fantastic — a lot of good pitching going on. We saw some good things (Saturday night offensively in a 7-1 win), but today — it’s back and forth.
“I talked to these guys a little bit, and told them to take four days to mentally and physically rest, but take time for reflection and be accountable for what has and hasn’t happened this season. And damn sure be more consistent.”
Wedge has promised to use the All-Star break to “evaluate everything,” he said, but it’s hard to see, at 36-51 and having lost five of seven and 18 of 26 since the six-pitcher no-hitter June 8, how the American League’s worst team has the money, flexibility or cunning to make significant improvements.
Wedge almost seemed to concede the futility.
“Whatever we decide to do, if anything,” he said, “we’ll do it for right reasons, and not be emotional about it.”
One thing they don’t have to change is Hernandez, the Mariners’ lone All-Star, who, except for three ground-ball singles in the first that produced the A’s only run until the 13th, was again splendid. He pitched 7.2 innings and gave up six hits and three walks in 114 pitches. But for the 11th time in 18 starts, he received one run or less in support.
Hard to say whether it was a new low, but an epic moment of absurdity came in the 11th when Seattle reliever Charlie Furbush, attempting to complete an intentional walk, threw the ball five feet over the head of the batter and catcher all the way to the backstop. The wild pitch advanced Weeks to third, but Wedge pulled Furbush for Shawn Kelley, who got the final out and saved Furbush from immediate entry into the Hall of Shame.
Meanwhile, with their second walk-off win in the series and eighth of the season, the A’s are 43-43 and only 2.5 games behind Baltimore for the last wild-card spot, despite having the smallest payroll in MLB.