By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Deep into their inglorious march toward 100 losses, the Seattle Mariners on Friday were like the band that lined up in the parade behind an equestrian unit.
They knew that if the next stride didn’t get them, the one after that probably would.
The Mariners couldn’t sidestep Daric Barton, whose two home runs and six RBI led the Oakland A’s to a 9-0 victory at Safeco Field, or A’s starter Trevor Cahill and his seven innings of shutout pitching.
The loss put the Mariners on the brink of something that seemed outlandish when they began the season. They must sweep the final two games in order to avoid 100 losses.
To do that, they must beat A’s left-hander Brett Anderson (2.91 earned run average) tonight and left-hander Dallas Braden (3.50) on Sunday. That’s after the A’s outscored them 17-1 in the first two games of the season.
“It’s a couple of bad games, but it’s been a couple of bad games all year long,” shortstop Josh Wilson said. “Every guy in this room is going to be a stronger person mentally because of this year. It’s a test of will and confidence.”
That definitely described Mariners starter Luke French, who fell behind 7-0 before he’d recorded his fifth out. Barton hit a solo homer with one out in the first inning, then a grand slam with one out in the second, when the A’s scored six runs.
French finished his season 5-7 with a 4.83 ERA and tried to look past his nightmare final start and more at what he accomplished this season. He went 11-3, 2.94 at Class AAA Tacoma and pitches six innings or more in eight of his 13 starts with the Mariners. Combined, he pitched 205 innings this season.
“I’ve thrown the most innings I’ve ever thrown,” he said. “I learned a lot. I pitched more up here than I did last year. Every time you go out there you learn something.”
Barton taught him that big-league hitters feast on pitches that miss their location. Barton hit a slider for his first-inning home run and a two-strike fastball for his grand slam in the second on a pitch French tried to push inside to the A’s left-hander.
“We’d gone away a couple of times and I tried to run one in,” French said. “It was up and he turned and burned. That’s four runs on the board.”
They were plenty for Cahill, who showed why he’s a field entry in the American Cy Young derby. He’s no Felix Hernandez, but Cahill raised his record to 18-8 and dropped his ERA to 2.97.
He held the Mariners to five hits, struck out six and erased the Mariners’ slim opportunities by picking Chone Figgins off first base in the first inning and getting double-play grounders to end the fifth and seventh.
The Mariners were shut out for the 15th time this season, most in the American League, and left with 99 losses with two games to play.
Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com/marinersblog