By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
OAKLAND, Calif. — The chance for a very good road trip slipped a gear Sunday for the Seattle Mariners when they squandered a three-run lead in a 6-3 loss to the Oakland A’s at the O.co Coliseum.
It meant the Mariners headed home at 4-2, instead of 5-1, from a six-game spin through Anaheim and the East Bay. Good instead of very good. Now, comes a day off prior to Tuesday’s home opener against the Angels.
It still stings a bit.
“Obviously, you jump out to a lead early today …,” catcher Mike Zunino said, “but it’s one of those things. I think we played some good baseball. Hopefully, we have an off-day to regroup, and come out strong on Tuesday.”
The Mariners had A’s starter Sonny Gray on the ropes in the early innings before Erasmo Ramirez paid the fiddler for an off-tune performance that included three walks and a general lack of strike-zone command.
“My strength is to throw strikes and let them put the ball in play,” he said. “Make the hitter swing the bat. Today, I don’t know. I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel like the strike-thrower that I am.”
Ramirez’s troubles typically occur from throwing hittable pitches in the strike zone. That happened, too — notably on one pivotal, poorly located fastball to Brandon Moss after the Mariners built their three-run lead.
The A’s had runners at first and second with two outs in the third inning when, after a mound conference with Zunino and pitching coach Rick Waits, Ramirez served up a red-zone sundae.
“It was a bad pitch,” Ramirez said. “Bad location. He got good contact. And tie game.”
“He was probably looking for something to get some extension on and drive,” Zunino said. “He got a pitch about thigh-high that he could do it on.” Moss drove it over the right-field wall.
The A’s surged to a 5-3 lead in the fifth after Eric Sogard led off with a single and stole second. Coco Crisp battled through nine pitches for a walk before a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third with no outs.
Josh Donaldson followed with an infield single by beating the throw from Robinson Cano on a chopper behind second base. Sogard scored, Crisp took third and the Mariners went to the bullpen.
In came Chris Young, who lost a slotted start Friday when the O-no was deemed unplayable after the grounds crew left the infield uncovered during a morning rainstorm.
Jed Lowrie sent a fly to deep center that Abraham Almonte reached but didn’t hold. Almonte recovered in time to throw to second for a force, but Crisp scored for a two-run lead.
The scoring, officially, credited Lowrie with an RBI on a sacrifice fly, i.e., no at-bat. He reached first on what was scored a fielder’s choice because Almonte dropped the ball but recorded an out at second.
Almonte insisted he caught the ball.
“I took two or three steps,” he said, “while I was trying to get the ball out of my glove.”
All that mattered, officially, was the Mariners now trailed by two runs and were staring at Gray back in top form backed by, what for them, has been a lockdown Oakland bullpen.
Gray, 1-0, worked a one-two-three sixth inning before Luke Gregorson, Sean Doolittle and Jim Johnson each pitched one scoreless innings. The A’s relief corps delivered 12 zeroes over the three games.
Johnson gained his first save, although the Mariners got the tying run to the plate after a leadoff walk to Kyle Seager and a one-out single by Michael Saunders. Johnson struck out Zunino and Almonte. Now, it’s back to Safeco Field.
“Anytime you can come back off the road with a winning record,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “regardless of how you got there, it’s a successful trip.
“I told our guys, ‘It’s a tough one today, but we had a successful road trip. Get home, rest up and be ready to play in front of our fans.”