By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
OAKLAND, Calif. — Let’s start with the homer. Lots of stuff went right Monday night for the Seattle Mariners as they continued their recent surge with a 4-2 victory over the Oakland A’s at the O.co Coliseum.
We’ll get to that but, first, that homer.
It came in the fifth inning after the A’s had just pulled even. It put the Mariners ahead for good. It was the first homer of Stefen Romero’s career. And it was a no-doubter to left on a hittable changeup.
How’d it feel, you wonder?
“You can’t really feel it,” Romero said. “That’s the thing. No vibration. Nothing. When it comes off the barrel, it just feels like a hot knife cutting through butter. That’s the best way to explain it.”
A’s starter Scott Kazmir had allowed just one other homer this season in 43 previous innings. He was unbeaten in six starts and sporting a 2.11 ERA that included six shutout innings against the Mariners on April 13.
While the Mariners nicked Kazmir for two runs in the first inning, Chris Young surrendered the lead on Brandon Moss’ two-run homer in the fourth. All prelude for Romero’s two-out moment in the fifth.
Actually, it was his second chance at a special moment. Romero just missed a pitch from Kazmir with two outs in the third inning. The result was a fly to deep right for an out.
Here, though, on a 0-1 count in the fifth, Kazmir floated a changeup and, in Romero’s words: “I made sure not to miss it again.”
The Mariners added another run against Kazmir (4-1) in the sixth before riding a strong outing from Young and some sterling matchup moments from their bullpen in winning for the eighth time in 10 games.
Young (2-0), permitted just two runs and three hits while pitching into the seventh before the Mariners ran through a five-reliever relay.
“Sometimes, you’re better than your results,” Young said. “Sometimes, you’re not. Tonight, I probably got away with a few pitches that they fouled off, and then got lucky with some of the ones they put in play.
“They missed the barrel. I’ll take it.”
The closing innings brimmed with match-up strategies and counter-strategies but, manager Lloyd McClendon said: “It went just like we wanted it to go. In the end, the guys did what they’re supposed to do. They executed pitches. When you do that, it looks good.”
Young carried that 4-2 lead into the seventh, but Josh Donaldson led off with a single before Moss battled through 12 pitches for a walk after falling behind 0-2 in the count.
That finished Young; the Mariners turned to struggling Charlie Furbush — and Furbush fell behind 2-0 on Alberto Callapso before inducing a double-play grounder.
“I’m just staying the course,” said Furbush, who entered the game with a 7.71 ERA. “I’m believing in myself and having that confidence that, ‘Hey, I’m all right.’
“Things aren’t as bad as they may seem sometimes. You’ve just got to do the best you can to keep things simple.”
Double plays help.
Then back to the bullpen for Dominic Leone, who walked pinch-hitter Derek Norris. That led to another pinch-hitter, Josh Reddick, and another pitching change — to Joe Beimel.
And that prompted another pinch-hitter: Yoenis Cespedes, who popped out to second. Beimel also retired the first two hitters in the eighth before exiting after Coco Crisp’s two-out single.
Yoervis Medina ended the inning by getting Jed Lowrie to fly to center. Fernando Rodney retired three straight hitters for his eighth save in nine chances. The victory also lifted the Mariners back to .500 at 15-15.
There were other pluses, too:
Michael Saunders had two more hits and is now 10-for-23 in his last five games. Corey Hart opened the scoring with an RBI single in the first after Kazmir struck out Robinson Cano with runners at first and second.
Shortstop Brad Miller made a sparkling play on a rocket by Donaldson for the first out in the ninth. Young shows increasing signs that, finally healthy, he can be a reliable cog in the rotation. Rodney had a no-drama ninth.
Romero’s homer stood out, though. He chugged quickly around the bases before returning to the first-homer ritual of a silent dugout.
“When everybody was quiet,” he said, “I knew what they were doing. I tried to play it off a little bit. I went over to the end of the dugout, took off my batting glove and put my bat away.
“I wanted to bee-line it to the edge of the dugout for when they rushed me. Then Cano got a base-hit. And right after Cano got the base-hit, that’s when they lost it.”
A good night all around.