Mike Fiers allowed five runs in the third inning, four on a Domingo Santana grand slam, as his season debut was cut short on a night when Oakland Athletics pitchers faltered at the Tokyo Dome.
Starting pitching was never expected to be a strength of the 2019 A’s, but if they want to make a second consecutive postseason appearance, it’s going to have to be a lot better than it was in the team’s season-opening 9-7 loss to the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo on Wednesday.
Stephen Piscotty had Oakland (0-1) out to a 1-0 lead with a home run in the bottom of the first, and Khris Davis hit a two-run shot off Marco Gonzales in the third for his fourth home run across the last three season openers, but the big top of the third and ineffective pitching from the A’s bullpen added up to render the offensive efforts meaningless.
Davis’ homer cut the Mariner lead to 5-4, but a pair of Liam Hendriks walks — two of the six that Oakland pitchers would allow on the day — and a Mitch Haniger sac fly got one of those runs back for Seattle (1-0) in the top of the fourth.
Ryan Dull allowed three more runs in the fifth, surrendering an RBI double to Ryon Healy and a two-run homer to Tim Beckham on a hanging slider that was as middle-middle as any pitch could possibly be. The Mariners would collect just seven hits, but the six walks, two homers and 4-for-9 showing with men in scoring position added up.
Those runs allowed Gonzales to stay in the game and settle down for the Mariners. He allowed a leadoff double in the bottom of the fourth for Jurickson Profar’s first Oakland hit, and followed that up by walking Marcus Semien, but Nick Hundley grounded into a double play to quash the momentum and Ramon Laureano struck out to end the inning, starting a stretch of eight in a row retired by the left-hander.
It was one of two double plays that Hundley grounded into on a particularly tough night for the A’s new catcher, with the first ending the second inning after a Semien RBI single made it 2-0. He also allowed a stolen base and two wild pitches while Fiers was on the mound and was removed in the bottom of the seventh inning for a pinch-hitter. Josh Phegley came in to catch in the top of the eighth and immediately threw Beckham out on an attempt to steal second, though rookie Dylan Moore did steal second and score later in the inning.
Not only did Hundley struggle in the ninth spot, Ramon Laureano had a rough go in the leadoff position, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.
Matt Chapman’s three-run blast off Nick Rumbelow in the bottom of the seventh got the A’s back within two, but they would get no closer as Cory Gearrin, Zac Rosscup and Hunter Strickland combined to close out the game. Rosscup issued a one-out walk to Matt Olson to bring the tying run up in the bottom of the eighth, but Profar grounded into a first-pitch force out and Semien’s hard-hit grounder went right to Beckham to end the frame. Strickland took care of the ninth in order for his first Mariners save, striking out Phegley and Chapman.
J.B. Wendelken was a major bright spot for Oakland, pitching two spotless innings as he made a campaign to not only stay on the roster when the team returns stateside, but pitch in an expanded role. Lou Trivino pitched a remarkable ninth, striking out the side. Those effective innings couldn’t make up for Fiers, who allowed four hits and a pair of walks, and Dull, who allowed three runs in two-thirds of an inning.
The main attraction for the local fans, Ichiro Suzuki, went 0-for-1 with a walk before being removed from the game in the bottom of the fourth inning.