OAKLAND — The Athletics’ demons have not been exorcised after all.
Despite slowing their rate of committing fielding blunders, it was a throwing error that allowed the Mariners to steal the series opener on Monday at the Coliseum, 4-3.
Before the game, A’s manager Bob Melvin said he was relieved that his team has recently been on the winning side of one-run games — as opposed to last year when it led the league in the narrowest of defeats.
After the game, the Oakland skipper and his players said the loss was due to the unfair nature of “the game of baseball.” The Baseball Gods’ cruel disposition was on full display in the early innings when A’s hitters had two otherwise promising frames stunted by lining into double plays.
“You just try to put the barrel on the ball, nowadays there are guys in different positions than you’re used to seeing and there was a couple of those today” that made the difference, Melvin said.
With little run support, Oakland starting pitchers have struggled in the last 10 games. Even with a couple strong showings from newcomers Sean Manaea and Jesse Hahn, A’s starters had a 7.05 earned run average while allowing opponents to hit .296 over the last nine games before Kendall Graveman’s outing on Monday.
Graveman didn’t help those numbers as he surrendered four earned runs on 10 hits over 6 ⅓ innings. It was his second-straight outing allowing double-digit hits.
The Mariners did their damage in the fourth and sixth innings, scoring three combined runs on seven hits. Both rallies started off the bat of Seattle superstar Robinson Cano who drove a double to right to lead off the fourth and served a single over the second baseman’s head in the sixth.
“[Cano] started swinging [early in counts]. I thought I made a quality pitch down in the zone but he stayed on it, a sinker down and away, and he hit a double in the gap,” Graveman said. “There was no extra pressure [facing him], or with [Nelson] Cruz. They just placed it to the right spot. [They weren’t] hit well.”
Khris Davis, for whom the A’s traded this offseason, appears to have overcome his early-April slump. He hit two no-doubt home runs off Mariners starter Nathan Karns and has five long-flies over the last 11 games.
“Hit one as far as he did in our ballpark to centerfield at night here means you can hit it out anywhere,” Melvin said of Davis’ two-run shot in the seventh.
But Davis’ heroics weren’t enough as an errant throw from Stephen Vogt to third base allowed a stealing Nori Aoki to score the winning run.
“It’s a ball I shouldn’t even throw,” Vogt said. “[Aoki] got such a good jump and I tried to be too quick and I’ve got to be smarter than that. It’s 100 percent on me.”
The defeat left the veteran catcher with a bitter aftertaste.
“When you lose by one, you start second guessing everything that happened in the game and what you can change and things like that,” he said. “Like we always do, we get the winning run on base and we’re one hit away.”
The A’s, playing with meager expectations illustrated by a generously counted 10,535 fans, have now lost seven of their last 10.
A’s ace Sonny Gray returns to the mound today, hoping to move past his dreadful last start against the Detroit Tigers. Gray lasted just two innings, throwing 65 pitches. He’ll face Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners.