OAKLAND — The Athletics’ 10-game homestand started with a thud on Friday, as Oakland dropped the opener 9-2 to the Seattle Mariners.
The A’s struggled on both sides of the ball, with a quiet night from the lineup, a key error from the defense, and a pitching performance that saw 10 hits, four walks and two hit batsmen.
“Just not a real crisp played game for us all the way around,” said manager Bob Melvin. “Wasn’t any one person in particular, we just didn’t get big hits when we needed to, and didn’t make some plays, and they made some big swings toward the end. And it just got out of hand for us.”
The Mariners took the lead for good in the fourth inning, with some help from Oakland. With two runners on and nobody out, and nursing an early 2-1 lead, starting pitcher Chris Bassitt induced a ground ball that looked like a tailor-made double play. Jurickson Profar fielded it and made a good feed to shortstop Marcus Semien, but Semien clanked the catch and all the runners ended up safe to load the bases. Two pitches later, J.P. Crawford doubled down the first-base line to drive in a pair, and five pitches after that, Dee Gordon lofted a sacrifice fly to knock in another and make the score 4-2.
For Semien, the error was his fourth in his last 12 games, after committing just one in his first 59 contests of the season.
Bassitt wasn’t interested in blaming the defense, though, instead citing the four walks he issued as the most frustrating part of the game.
“The defense that we have is beyond special. I think we’re very, very lucky to have the defense that we have, so I’m not mad at that,” said Bassitt. “No defender wants to sit behind a guy that’s just walking guys. It’s just that simple. So I need to clean it up.”
The right-hander has now walked 24 batters this season in 58 2/3 innings, which is the highest rate in the A’s current rotation and comfortably worse than league average. One of his walks on Friday led off the fourth inning and helped set the scene before Semien’s error.
“I’m just pissed off with myself to be honest with you,” said Bassitt. “Four walks tonight. Just can’t happen. One is whatever, but four is just ridiculous. Get that ironed out, and get ‘em next time. That’s the most frustrating part of it, is walking guys. You’re gonna get destroyed in this league walking guys.”
The Mariners later padded their lead against the A’s bullpen, with two-run homers off Wei-Chung Wang in the seventh inning and Aaron Brooks in the eighth. For Wang, the runs were the first he’s allowed this season, after entering the day with 8 1/3 scoreless frames to start his stint with Oakland. Brooks later let through another run in the ninth.
Meanwhile, the A’s offense scored early but then went silent for the rest of the night. They tallied runs in the second and third innings, but only managed five more baserunners over the final five frames.
Like the Mariners’ big rally, Oakland’s first run came with some assistance from their opponent’s defensive miscue. After squandering a bases-loaded chance in the first inning, they got a runner to second base in the second inning thanks to a double by Profar. Then, with two outs, Josh Phegley bounced a slow grounder up the middle, and second baseman Gordon ranged over to collect it. However, Gordon had to make a jump-throw behind him to first, and the bounce ate up first baseman Daniel Vogelbach badly enough that Profar was able to score when the ball dribbled away.
In the third inning, Matt Chapman hit a triple to deep left field, and he later scored on a two-out single by Matt Olson. The RBI was Olson’s 10th in his last 10 games, a stretch during which he’s gone 11-for-33.
After Olson’s hit, though, 10 of the next 11 A’s batters were retired by Mariners starter Marco Gonzales. It’s the second time Gonzalez has beaten Oakland this season, with the first coming in the opening series in Japan in March.
“It’s a lot of changeups, it’s a lot of cutters, he wants to make you expand [the strike zone], he doesn’t want to have to throw the ball over the plate unless he has to, and we played into his hands a little bit,” said Melvin of Gonzales, who didn’t throw a pitch above 90 mph all night.
With the loss, the A’s fall back to .500 at 35-35. They’ll get another crack at the Mariners on Saturday, with Frankie Montas starting for Oakland and right-hander Gerson Bautista for Seattle.
“Coming off a road trip with a day off, we’d expect to do a little better today, we just didn’t,” said Melvin. “So come back out tomorrow with a little better effort.”