Over the course of the Mariners’ recent winning streak, timely hitting has been instrumental. So it was again as Seattle (17-15) defeated the A’s 6-4 in 10 innings in the first game doubleheader Wednesday in Oakland, the fifth win in a row and 10th in the past 12 games.
In the extra frame, Justin Smoak delivered a two-out RBI single that ricocheted off the glove first baseman Daric Barton. Kyle Seager followed with an RBI single to left field, scoring Smoak. Fernando Rodney secured his ninth save.
For Smoak, it was his major-league-leading 17th two-out RBI and the second of the game. He was 1-for-4 with a sacrifice fly and has a team-leading 22 RBI.
Smoak and Seager may not have had their opportunities had Robinson Cano not come through in the eighth inning. Trailing 4-3, Cano’s single scored Michael Saunders. The game went to extra innings after reliever Yoervis Medina survived a rocky ninth.
Seattle is 7-1 on this nine-game road trip with the final of the doubleheader underway 30 minutes after the first.
During the run, the only starter not to record a win has been Felix Hernandez. His recent struggles continued, this time in a ballpark where he has enjoyed tremendous success.
Hernandez was unable to command his dynamic arsenal of off-speed pitches against Oakland (19-15), forcing him to rely heavily on a fastball that was down in velocity, perhaps due to a recent bout with the flu.
In 6.1 innings, Hernandez yielded 11 hits and four runs (three earned) while walking two. He also did not strike out a single hitter for just the third time in his nine-year career.
It is apparent that Hernandez simply is not as strong as he has been in recent years, nor even as strong as he was to start the season, when he came out with 39 strikeouts to three walks in 28.1 innings over his first four starts.
Over his last four outings, Hernandez has yielded 28 hits, 16 runs (10 earned) and nine walks in 24.1 innings. He struck out 14 and has a 3.70 ERA.
Despite that, Seattle gave Hernandez 1-0 and 3-1 leads, which he could not hold.
In the second inning, Corey Hart led off with a solo home run to left center off of Dan Straily. The A’s answered in the fourth, thanks to a Brad Miller botch of a routine ground ball that should have resulted in a double play. Instead, Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie were on first and second with nobody out. Cespedes scored on Daric Barton’s groundout to second.
In the fifth, Mike Zunino scraped the left-field foul pole for a solo homer, his fifth. In the sixth, the Mariners manufactured a run when rookie James Jones led off with a walk, stole second, advanced to third on Cano’s groundout and scored on Smoak’s sacrifice fly.
But after Oakland reliever Francisco Abad shut down the M’s in the seventh, the A’s got to Hernandez. They strung together three consecutive hits, a sacrifice fly and a double off the bat of Brandon Moss for a 4-3 lead that knocked Hernandez out of the game. Danny Farquhar came on to end the damage.
The Mariners headed into the second game with a chance to not only sweep a four-game set in Oakland for the first time in franchise history, but to claim sole possession of first place in the AL West.
Erasmo Ramirez, who joined the club earlier in the trip, was formally recalled from AAA Tacoma to start the second game. The Mariners did not have to make a corresponding roster move because rules allow expanded rosters to 26 for doubleheaders. . . . Injured starters Taijuan Walker and James Paxton have yet to begin a throwing program. They remain playing catch on level ground as they work their way back from a shoulder impingement and lat-muscle strain, respectively.