By Larry LaRue The News Tribune
OAKLAND, Calif. — It was an old-fashioned pitching duel for most of three-plus hours Friday, although any time the Seattle Mariners offense is involved, pitching duels seem to pop up.
This time the Mariners scored in the first inning, then fell down and couldn’t get up.
The Oakland Athletics caught them in the eighth inning, then rode Chris Carter’s three-run home run in the 11th inning to a 4-1 victory that handed Seattle it’s eighth loss in the past 12 games.
“This is ‘Ground Hog Day’ too many times for me,” manager Eric Wedge said afterward. “We’re not just going to keep watching this. It’s the same thing night in and night out.
“We’re two games from the All-Star break, and we’re going to do what we have to do to improve this club. Guys are going to have to get it done — or they won’t be here.
“It’s no secret what our issue is,” Wedge said.
Asked what had happened in the month or more since Seattle’s young hitters had gone on a tear on the road, hitting and scoring, Wedge shook his head.
“Either there are guys not paying attention or they’re just dumb,” he said. “They should be able to get back to what made them successful.”
After inning after inning of great pitching on both sides, Oakland hitters built their game-winnng rally in the 11th on excuse-me swings that were golden.
Josh Reddick, a left-handed power hitter who could easily have been an All-Star, flared an Oliver Perez pitch over shortstop and in front of left fielder Casper Wells for a bloop single to open the 11th inning.
One out later, the left-handed hitting Seth Smith checked his swing and nubbed a roller down the third base line. By the time Kyle Seager fielded and threw, Smith had an infield single — and Oakland had two men on with only one out.
Steve Delabar relieved Perez, and Carter hit his home run well over the fence in left field.
“One of their young players stepped up for them tonight,” Wedge said. “We need some of our players to step up for us.”
The strained groin that pulled Kevin Millwood from two of his last four starts wasn’t a factor in this game, when he reminded hitters what he’s capable of when healthy.
Early on, Oakland made some hard outs, sending right fielder Carlos Peguero to the right field wall to haul down a Coco Crisp fly ball, then forcing Wells to make a leaping catch at the wall in left field to retire Brandon Moss.
Once Millwood got out of the second inning with a strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play — with catcher Miguel Olivo gunning down Seth Smith at second base — the Athletics had no answer for him.
Which led eventually to another oh-so-close game for Millwood.
Back on June 8, Millwood went six hitless innings, then departed because he couldn’t lift his leg while trying his delivery. The Mariners turned that game into a six-man no-hit, 1-0 victory — though Millwood didn’t get the decision.
Nor did he get one while allowing Texas one run in five innings on June 28. Or on April 11, when he allowed the Rangers a run in six innings.
Give Millwood a win in those games, he’d be 7-6 today.
Instead, he’s 3-6, and he’s pitched some of Seattle’s grittier games of 2012 — often with nothing to show for it.
This time, the Seattle offense produced one run for Millwood, a first-inning tally that came on three singles, the last Kyle Seager’s RBI single with two out.
But that was it.
For the next six innings, Millwood got no help from a Mariners attack that didn’t get another runner as far as second base until the eighth inning.
Seattle got a two-out walk to Michael Saunders in the eighth inning, after which Saunders stole second base. Miguel Olivo flied out.
Four outs from a 1-0 victory, the Mariners couldn’t hold. A one-out pinch-hit double by Brandon Hicks set the Athletics up, and with two outs, Jemile Weeks singled off Tom Wilhelmsen, chasing home the tying run.
The Mariners got a point-blank scoring opportunity in the ninth inning when Carlos Peguero hit a sinking line drive to left field, and rookie Yoenis Cespedes took a poor route — then dove for and missed the ball.
It rolled to the wall in left field, and Peguero wound up at third base with a two-out triple.
Dustin Ackley grounded out.
When Oakland batted in the ninth, they put up their own one-hit-wins-it rally, turning a pair of walks into a two-out threat for Brandon Inge. Wilhelmsen got Inge on a routine bouncer to shortstop, and the game was off into extra innings.