By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
OAKLAND, Calif. — OK, sure, it could have been better.
The Mariners could have swept their doubleheader Wednesday over Oakland, could have swept all four games from the two-time defending American League West champs.
That would have meant a six-game winning streak and just one loss on a nine-game road trip. And that would have boosted them into first place and, yes, that would have been swell.
It didn’t happen.
The A’s avoided those sweeps by winning 2-0 in the second game at the O.co Coliseum behind a strong outing by Drew Pomeranz in a spot start. You can focus on that if you choose.
Or you can look at how the day started: The Mariners won the opener 6-4 in 10 innings when a seemingly routine grounder took a fortuitous hop and helped them end a 10-game losing streak in extra innings.
It also marked the first time in eight doubleheaders, dating to 2004, that they didn’t lose the opener. Justin Smoak’s two-out chopper bounced just high enough to result in an RBI single that broke a 4-4 tie.
Also consider the split concluded a 7-2 trip that began with two victories (and a rainout) in New York and included two victories in three games in Houston before winning three of four over the A’s.
“You can’t hang your hat on one loss,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “We were 7-2, and I think we played great baseball. One of those losses was a 2-0 loss. The other was in (extra innings).”
It means the Mariners return home with a winning record at 17-16 after winning 10 of 13 since an eight-game skid in late April that is fast receding in the distance.
“Anytime, you can see it,” third baseman Kyle Seager said, “it obviously makes it better, but we knew what we had in here. We got out of the gate good. Take away that (eight-game) lull, we’ve been playing good baseball.”
On winning the opener: Smoak believed, off the bat, his hopper had “no chance” to get through. Then he saw first baseman Daric Barton leap as the ball caromed high — and then the ball skimmed the top of Barton’s glove.
“I was pretty mad about it as soon as I hit it,” Smoak said, “but when it clanged off his glove, I was just trying to get to first.”
Smoak made it safely to first for a single, and the go-ahead run scored.
Seager followed with an RBI single that stretched the lead to two runs for Fernando Rodney, who closed out the victory.
“Sometimes, you’ve got to be a little lucky,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “You’ve got to understand that, particularly at the end, we were a little lucky.”
Yoevis Medina (2-1) got the victory after making a narrow escape in the ninth. Rodney got his ninth save in 10 chances and then shot his imaginary arrow, he said, all the way to Seattle to alert fans the Mariners are rolling.
Ryan Cook (0-1) was the loser.
The Mariners’ luck didn’t hold in the second game, although they got six strong innings from Erasmo Ramirez, who returned from Class AAA Tacoma on a one-day recall.
The A’s scored on a seeing-eye single in the third inning before Yeonis Cespedes closed the scoring with a homer in the fourth.
Pomeranz (2-1) yielded just two hits in five innings before Dan Otero and Jim Johnson completed the shutout. Ramirez (1-4) was the loser.
“A lot of credit goes to that left-hander (Pomeranz),” McClendon said. “He threw the ball pretty good. It’s baseball. You’re not going to hit every night. That’s just the way it is.”
In the opener, the Mariners got homers from Corey Hart and Zunino against A’s starter Dan Straily and built a 3-1 lead for Felix Hernandez.
That lasted until the A’s struck for three runs in the seventh inning, but Robinson Cano’s RBI single in the eighth pulled the Mariners back to even at 4-4.
Both clubs squandered chances in the ninth before Michael Saunders started the winning rally by slicing a leadoff single to left against Cook.
After Stefen Romero pulled back on two bunts, Saunders stole second — and then went to third when Romero executed the sacrifice.
The A’s ordered an intentional walk to Cano, and Cook followed by striking out Hart. But the third strike resulted in a strained forearm that forced Cook from the game.
In came Otero, and Smoak hit a chopper that turned into a game-winner because “the field got hard there at the end.”
Had the road trip ended there, it would have been close to perfect. Even after settling for the split, though, the Mariners were undeniably upbeat as they headed home.
“Given the travel as it was,” McClendon said, “it was pretty tough — New York to Houston, Houston to Oakland. And to come out of this series 7-2, it was just an unbelievable trip.”