He’s not quite Felix Hernandez, but Oakland Athletics starter Sonny Gray is no less flummoxing to the Mariners as their ace is to Oakland. At least through two starts.
The 24-year-old rookie right-hander won his second start in a row over Seattle (6-4) Saturday in Oakland’s 3-1 win at Safeco Field and regained sole possession of first in the AL West.
Hernandez’s recent dominance against the A’s includes 15.1 innings in which he has given up 10 hits while striking out 20. Gray has been similarly dominant.
Saturday, Gray in seven innings yielded five hits, one run and two walks while striking out nine. Including his 6-3 win against Seattle Sunday, Gray is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.
While Gray was having his way, Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez struggled his way through five innings. Ramirez fell to 1-2 after yielding six hits, three walks and three runs.
It wasn’t the type of outing manager Lloyd McClendon expected.
“He just did not have command,” McClendon said. “I didn’t see command of the fastball, I didn’t see command of the secondary pitches. It was a very disappointing outing. I thought I would see better this time.
“I will say this: Erasmo really battled, gave us five innings and actually kept us in the ball game . . . We had opportunities, we just couldn’t take advantage.”
It began poorly for Ramirez when Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer to left in the first inning. Oakland (7-4) tacked on a run in third when Brandon Moss laced a ball into the left-center gap that Dustin Ackley caught with a slide, but was unable to make a clean transfer.
In another example of how new emphasis on a poorly worded rule is affecting the game, Moss was given credit for a hit, but was ruled out for passing baserunner Donaldson, who retreated thinking the ball was caught.
Regardless of the confusion, Oakland took a 3-1 lead that was all it would need.
After Gray left, the Mariners mounted a small rally in the ninth inning against Oakland’s Luke Gregerson. But Gregerson induced backup catcher John Buck to ground out to short with runners on first and second to end the game and pick up his first save.
Ackley again led the Mariners. Hitting seventh, the left-fielder finished 2-for-4 with a double. Robinson Cano picked up the lone RBI when his ground out scored Abraham Almonte from third in the first inning. Cano finished 1-for-4.
In what should be a battle all season, Seattle is 2-3 against the A’s, trailing in total runs 17-15. The A’s are the two-time defending AL West division champions and McClendon said he expects the series to be a struggle for both.
“They’re a tough team,” McClendon said. “They’re division champs back-to-back. They’re no fluke. We played well, but you don’t get the ice cream for playing well, you get the ice cream for winning ball games. Tonight we didn’t win it.”
The series concludes Sunday afternoon. Chris Young gets his first start as a Mariner against Scott Kazmir (2-0, 2.03 ERA).
Blake Beavan will make Tuesday’s start in Texas as the Mariners go with a fifth starter for the first time. Taijuan Walker, the other candidate for the start, will make a third rehab start, this time in AAA Tacoma early next week.
Starter Hisashi Iwakuma threw a 45-pitch bullpen session Saturday afternoon. He mixed in more off-speed pitches and said he was pleased with how the ball was coming out of his hand.