By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
OAKLAND, Calif. — Labor Day tip, Mariners: Remember to breathe.
The first meaningful September for the Seattle Mariners in more than a decade started with a thud Monday afternoon when Chris Young failed to survive the first inning in a 6-1 loss to free-falling Oakland at the O.co Coliseum.
Previously free-falling Oakland, that is.
“They ran the (opening) kickoff back,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “and the game was over. The first inning, it was over with. We battled. We hit some balls hard. But the game was over with.”
Adam Dunn’s two-run homer against Young started a five-run burst. The ball had just enough carry to clear the right-field wall and provide Dunn with a memorable first at-bat since joining the A’s.
“He’s just such a strong guy,” Young said, “and he hit it well enough. It wasn’t located as well as it needed to be, but it wasn’t a horrible pitch. I needed to limit it to that at that point, and I didn’t do it.”
The A’s scored three more runs before lefty Lucas Luetge, one of seven players the Mariners summoned Monday from Triple-A Tacoma, recorded the inning’s final out.
Want a silver lining?
The quick hook on Young brought just-recalled Taijuan Walker into the game just a few hours after McClendon pretty much challenged Walker to begin living up to his hype as the organization’s top prospect.
Walker responded by holding the A’s to one run in six innings.
“Definitely I need to step up,” he said. “My (previous) three outings in the big leagues weren’t very good. But my last five down in Triple-A were very good, and I’ve been throwing the ball well.”
Other than that, though, not much went right.
Oakland starter Jason Hammel lugged a 5.77 ERA into the afternoon but carried a two-hit shutout into the sixth inning before Brad Miller led off with a homer.
Hammel (2-5) then retired the next nine in a row before giving the game to Eric O’Flaherty, who pitched the ninth.
The Mariners (73-63) have now lost five of their last seven. They also fell 11⁄2 games behind Detroit in the battle for the American League’s final wild-card spot. The Tigers walloped Cleveland 12-1.
What happened at the O.co didn’t go well.
The Mariners provided Oakland’s run-starved attack with an early break when center fielder Austin Jackson misplayed Josh Reddick’s one-out drive in the first inning.
The result was a ball that got over Jackson’s head for a double.
“It was hit right at me,” he said. “It was one of them where you’ve got to make up your mind right away on which way you’re going to turn.
“It didn’t get up in the sun. It was just a line drive, hit right at me, and I kind of froze for a quick second.”
That misplay enabled Dunn to bat with two outs, and he lofted 1-1 changeup to right, just deep enough to claw its way over the wall for a two-run homer.
The sellout crowd of 36,067 responded with a roar.
“That’s the best crowd I’ve ever played for,” said Dunn, a 14-year veteran whom Oakland acquired Sunday from the Chicago White Sox for minor-league pitch Nolan Sanburn.
“That’s the most excited, anxious — call it a little nervous — I’ve been in a long time.”
It quickly got worse.
Young walked Brandon Moss on four pitches, and Jed Lowrie, just activated from the disabled list, pulled a single to right. A walk to Stephen Vogt loaded the bases.
Geovany Soto lined a full-count fastball into left for a two-run single and a 4-0 lead that finished Young, who threw 36 pitches in, by far, the shortest outing of the season by a Mariners starter.
The A’s kept coming. Eric Sogard greeted Luetge with an RBI single before Sam Fuld struck out.
Oakland’s five-run first inning came after it scored just four runs over the weekend in losing four games to the first-place Angels in Anaheim.
All five were charged to Young, who dropped to 12-7 and saw his ERA spike from 3.17 to 3.46. Afterward, he refused to blame the nine-day “refresher” layoff for his ineffectiveness.
“I feel good,” Young insisted. “I wouldn’t take the ball if I didn’t. Every pitcher goes through a period during the season when they don’t throw the ball as well (as usual). Mine is right now.
“I’m going to get through it, keep working, and I’m going to finish strong.”