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Mini-sweep of A's slows plunge into sadness

The Mariners returned home from a dismal road trip that saw them drop eight of ten games to the Indians, Yankees, and Red Sox and slip under the .500 mark for the first time this year. They were outscored 57-41, lost some badly and lost some barely, shot themselves in the foot a few times and were bludgeoned others. It was enough to make one wonder if these M's could ever win another series.

But they did, Monday and Tuesday versus the Oakland A's. It wasn't easy—Monday required ten innings and two comebacks, Tuesday depended on a quality performance out of a battered bullpen—but they pulled it off and regained at least a modicum of self-respect. They're still under .500, and next on the calendar is a four-game set against the first-place Minnesota Twins before heading back out on the road to Dallas-Ft. Worth, so all is not sunshine and rainbows again. But at least the team showed some fortitude early in the homestand and hopefully they'll maintain it against the Twins.

Monday's game was another edition of Home Run Derby, which remains a concern. But the A's were in the same boat—all five of their runs came on solo homers. The first four of Seattle's were on longballs—a solo shot from Mitch Haniger and a three-run bomb from Daniel Vogelbach—but to win it in the tenth, the M's remembered there are other ways to score and achieved a two-out rally on a walk, stolen base, a double, and a single to rebound from 5-4 and win 6-5. The victory saved starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi from a tough loss in another quality start, a nice reversal from the Yankee series, which saw quality starts from Kikuchi, Mike Leake, and Marco Gonzales but only one win among them thanks to bullpen blowups.

Leake threw another nice game Tuesday night, pitching into the seventh allowing just one earned run, and actually came away with the win. Credit manager Scott Servais for going against his habits: when Cory Gearrin clearly didn't have his good control, Servais pulled him straight away in favor of Roenis Elías, and then left Elías in for two and a third innings to finish the game. He didn't wait to get someone warming behind Gearrin, as is his typical way, and he didn't pull Elías at all, a shockingly smart decision. Whether it was because there was no game the next day or just a realization that Elías was on his game and going to anyone else would be an unwarranted roll of the dice isn't clear, but it's nice to know that at least in some circumstances Servais doesn't necessarily keep to formula and ignore what's happening in front of him.

Tuesday remained homer-happy, though. All four Mariner runs came on home runs (by Vogelbach, Tim Beckham, and Hanniger), and of the six Seattle batters that reached base otherwise, none were advanced and five were followed by the next batter striking out. The reliance on the home run is a recipe for continued disappointment—there are times to swing for the fences, but those times are not "always." Monday night the M's remembered that in extra innings. Hopefully they'll remember it for full games and full series at some point.

Mariners vs. Athletics, by the numbers

  • Total runs scored: 18 (SEA 10, OAK 8)
  • Home runs hit: 10 (SEA 5, OAK 5)
  • Bases stolen: 1 (Dee Gordon)
  • Errors committed: 4 (SEA 3, OAK 1)
  • Quality starts: 2 (Kikuchi, Leake)
  • Pitching changes: 10 (SEA 5, OAK 5)
  • Starters ERA: 3.42 (SEA 2.84, OAK 4.09)
  • Bullpen ERA: 4.85 (SEA 2.84, OAK 6.75)
  • Runners left on base: 29 (SEA 12, OAK 17)
  • Runs scored without benefit of a homer: 5 (SEA 2, OAK 3)

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