Among the myriad issues over the last week in dropping five of seven, the Mariners kept failing to score first. Not since a 5-0 win over the Rangers six games ago had Seattle opened with a lead. The run was snapped Tuesday in a 6-5 cruiser-turned-nail-biter over the Athletics at the O.Co Coliseum in Oakland.
Drama came late with five A’s runs in the final two innings, but the win helped Seattle stay 1.5 games back of the Tigers for the American League’s second wild card.
In their five previous looks at young Oakland star Sonny Gray (13-8, 3.25 ERA), the Mariners had four earned runs in 32.2 innings. Tuesday, they matched that output in four innings.
Back-to-back walks to begin the third inning put the Mariners in a good position. Reserve catcher Jesus Sucre, getting another start in favor of struggling Mike Zunino, bunted the runners along. Austin Jackson M’s hit a 1-1 fastball back up the middle for a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth came two more runs via another one-out hit with runners in scoring position, this time from Endy Chavez. The 37-year-old veteran slapped a two-strike curveball just off the plate back up the middle. Because of a shift, the defense was unable to corral the 10-hopper, both runs scored and Chavez took second when neither the shortstop or second baseman covered the bag.
A Kyle Seager two-run blast in the fifth completed the scoring, provided the eventual winning run and spelled the end for Gray. The second-year right-hander allowed six runs on seven hits over five innings. He walked two and struck out two. The run support was more than enough for James Paxton.
The young left-hander delivered his second strong outing in a row by cruising through seven innings while allowing three hits and no base-runner past first. After being extended to 118 pitches in his previous start, Paxton was dialed in with command of his high-90′s fastball and off-speed arsenal from the beginning.
Paxton (5-1, 1.91 ERA) got ground-ball out after ground-ball out. It wasn’t until the eighth inning that the Athletics applied pressure on Paxton, whom they were seeing for the first time. Derek Norris singled and Nate Freiman walked to lead off the inning against Paxton, who responded by getting Geovany Soto to ground into a double play.
But an RBI single by Adam Dunn, followed by another walk on Paxton’s 93rd pitch ended the rookie’s night. Yoervis Medina recorded the final out of the inning, but not before the A’s cut the lead to 6-3 on Craig Gentry’s third hit of the game, a ground-rule double to left.
Paxton’s line: Two earned runs on four hits, three walks and two strikeouts in 7.2 innings.
Oakland made Seattle sweat by adding two in the ninth inning against Fernando Rodney with two outs. Three consecutive doubles by Norris, Brandon Moss and Sam Fuld put the tying run in scoring position. Rodney induced Josh Reddick to ground out to short for the final out and his 40th save.
OF Michael Saunders is in Arizona at the team’s training complex. He lost 12 pounds after contracting a virus during paternity leave. Because all minor-league regular seasons have ended, Saunders is in Peoria where he will take batting practice, catch fly balls and face live pitching. There is no timetable for his return . . . Seattle recalled Erasmo Ramirez along with Paxton prior to Tuesday’s contest . . . Logan Morrison extended his road hitting streak to 15 games with a double in the fourth inning.