OAKLAND — Oh-so-close Oakland, again.
On a day the Athletics grabbed a big lead and got to nemesis Felix Hernandez, they still couldn’t pull out a victory.
On a day Sean Manaea hung tough with the Mariners ace for an afternoon, they couldn’t get the rookie his first big league win. Even with a rebuilt bullpen that has been so reliable.
Dae-Ho Lee hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh after an earlier solo shot for his first career multi-homer game, and Seattle rallied for a back-and-forth 9-8 win Wednesday and its first 2016 series sweep.
Mike Montgomery pitched two scoreless innings for the win and Nelson Cruz clobbered a rare shot into the second deck of seats in dead-center.
“Just another homer,” cracked Cruz with a grin. “I was kind of surprised.”
So was Manaea.
Cruz connected for a two-run drive to highlight Seattle’s four-run fifth against the rookie left-hander, making his second big league start.
“We were trying to beat him inside all day with the fastball. That pitch I just left out over the plate,” Manaea said. “He had seen the fastball the previous six or seven pitches so he’s probably got the timing down. I should have mixed it up a little bit there.”
Lee hit his third and fourth homers, connecting in the seventh against John Axford as the Mariners had a season-high 16 hits and improved to an AL-best 11-4 on the road. The A’s lost their fourth straight.
“We’ve been priding ourselves in the job we’ve been doing, stranding runners and keeping us in the ballgame, and today we didn’t do that,” Axford said. “None of us did that.”
Coach Edgar Martinez offered a little of his hitting expertise to Lee complete with Axford’s tendencies.
Oakland capitalized on two fifth-inning miscues.
One error came when Hernandez fumbled Josh Reddick’s dribbler with a chance to throw out the tying run at home. Khris Davis’ grounder got past third baseman Kyle Seager moments later as the A’s scored two more for a 6-4 lead, and Hernandez’s day was done.
“You get into a four-run lead like that and we have our best guys available for the game, I feel like we’re going to win that every time,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Would have been a nice game to put away.”
It matched his shortest outing against Oakland of four innings on May 16, 2006. The bullpen delivered.
“I should have made that play, that groundball. That was a weird inning,” Hernandez said. “The offense, they got my back, they picked me up today. The bullpen was really good, too. That was awesome. That was a great win for us.”
Joel Peralta struck out two in the eighth, and Steve Cishek earned his eighth save in as many tries.
Marcus Semien hit his team-leading seventh home run in the third off Hernandez to put the A’s ahead, and Billy Butler drove in two runs including a run-scoring single in the fifth. Butler made his first start at designated hitter in a week and only his ninth in the first 29 games.
“We finally get some hits, some good swings, make him work, get some runs off him and kind of let him off the hook,” Melvin said. “So disappointing.”
Manaea hung tough after Cruz’s big blast while opposing one of baseball’s best pitchers. The lefty, who made his major league debut last Friday against Houston after only 42 appearances in the minors, allowed four runs, all earned, on seven hits in five innings, struck out six and walked one.
He punched his pitching hand into his glove in celebration after retiring Norichika Aoki on a groundout to end the third. Aoki hit an infield single in the fifth and has hit safely in his last 15 games against Oakland.
Ketel Marte followed with an RBI double before Robinson Cano’s RBI single.
Aoki added a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Seattle is 8-0 in the last eight one-run games at the Coliseum.
Sean Doolittle hadn’t allowed a run over his previous eight games and 6 1/3 innings before surrendering two runs in two-third of an inning.
Hernandez is 11-3 at the Coliseum, one win shy of Tommy John for most career victories by a visiting pitcher in Oakland.