OAKLAND — If double plays are a pitcher’s best friend, the Oakland Athletics’ bullpen had a whole lot of friends on Thursday afternoon.
The A’s (26-24) turned five double plays behind five pitchers — none of whom went longer than three innings — en route to a 4-3 win over the Seattle Mariners and Felix Hernandez, avoiding a three-game sweep.
Perhaps no double play was bigger than the first, when Josh Lucas — who started the bullpen game — got Nelson Cruz to ground into a bases-loaded, around-the-horn twin killing to hold the Mariners to just one run in the first inning.
After limiting the damage in the top half, Oakland (26-24) struck for four in the bottom of the frame against Hernandez. Jed Lowrie’s sac fly tied the game, and after Matt Chapman walked to extend the inning, Stephen Piscotty hit a two-run double to put the hosts in front. Dustin Fowler followed with an RBI single.
Oakland would have just one more baserunner over the course of the game — a Fowler third-inning single — but the first-inning outburst was enough for the bullpen to work with.
Lucas allowed a run in the second on a David Freitas two-out single, but Chris Hatcher took care of the next two innings and Yusmeiro Petit took care of innings five through seven.
“My splitter has always been my out pitch,” said Hatcher, who has lowered his ERA from 13.50 to 4.58 over the past month. “I had been off a little bit mechanically early in the year, and guys were just eliminating my split. Once it comes back, it opens everything up.”
Jean Segura singled and Guillermo Heredia walked to start the eighth against set-up man Lou Trivino, but he got powerful Mitch Haniger to ground into a double play before allowing a bloop single off the end of the bat of Nelson Cruz to extend the inning.
Closer Blake Treinen came in to try and get the final four outs, and though he allowed a double to Kyle Seager, only one run scored as Seattle (29-20) neglected to pinch-run for Cruz. Daniel Vogelbach flew out to end the threat, and Treinen took care of the ninth in order, striking out pinch-hitters Ryon Healy and Mike Zunino to earn his 11th save of the season. Trivino was awarded his fifth hold.
Hernandez, the erstwhile Seattle ace, allowed five hits and a walk while striking out two and suffered just his second loss in his last 19 starts at the Oakland Coliseum. Ryan Cook, who pitched for the A’s from 2012-2015, pitched the seventh for the Mariners, his first appearance against his former club.