A play that off the bat looked like it would result in two critical outs for the A’s got them one – and then none. Two replay reviews went against them. Two of their runners were thrown out trying to score at home plate.
Saturday was full of little frustrations that, over 11 innings at O.co Coliseum, mounted for the A’s in a 5-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners. Mariners shortstop Brad Miller’s opposite-field double against left-hander Fernando Abad in the 11th drove Logan Morrison in from second base and handed the A’s a deficit they could not overcome after rallying in the seventh and eighth innings.
It continued the A’s win-then-lose pattern through the first six games of the year. Unlike the previous two losses, they showed some of the potent offense that has characterized their wins – albeit only after Mariners left-hander J.A. Happ held them scoreless over the first six innings Saturday. The A’s took their first lead, 2-1, on four singles against Happ in the seventh, with Josh Phegley’s and Marcus Semien’s bringing in runs.
Starting pitcher Sonny Gray began the eighth having allowed only a solo home run in the fourth inning to Dustin Ackley, and he was lifted after Austin Jackson singled with one out. Pinch hitter Justin Ruggiano hit a chopper back to reliever Eric O’Flaherty, who threw to second base trying to start a double play. But his throw was behind shortstop Semien and after appearing to step on second, Semien’s relay to first skipped away from Mark Canha.
The Mariners, though, challenged the out call at second base, and after a review of 3 minutes, 28 seconds, umpires ruled Jackson safe. Semien’s foot looked to be inches from the base at most – a “neighborhood” call that is not supposed to be reviewable. But crew chief Brian Gorman said after the game that O’Flaherty’s poor throw negated that rule.
“Since the throw was a little bit to the left and then (Semien) has to step on the base, it turns into a reviewable play,” Gorman told a pool reporter.
“It was a bad throw,” O’Flaherty said. “We work on that all spring. I messed it up.”
O’Flaherty got Robinson Cano to ground out for the second out. Manager Bob Melvin then summoned Dan Otero to face cleanup hitter Nelson Cruz, rather than walking Cruz to load the bases and letting O’Flaherty face left-handed hitting Kyle Seager. Otero left his third pitch over the inside part of the plate, and Cruz crushed it for a three-run homer.
“I told (catcher Josh) Phegley we were just going to try to … make him hit a ball,” Otero said. “(The pitch) didn’t really move in. It wasn’t a terrible pitch, but in that circumstance it obviously didn’t work out.”
The A’s tied it again in the bottom of the inning, though, on RBI doubles by Ben Zobrist and Brett Lawrie. And they had a chance to win in the 10th, when Zobrist led off against Tyler Olson with a single and Ike Davis hammered an Olson pitch off the left-center field wall.
Third-base coach Mike Gallego waved Zobrist around third, but Jackson barehanded the carom in center and threw to Miller, whose relay home just beat Zobrist. The A’s loaded the bases on walks with two outs, but Semien grounded into a fielder’s choice.
“I thought we had a pretty good opportunity to score, and when it’s the winning run, you try to stay aggressive,” Gallego said. “It took a perfect relay. You’ve got to tip your cap to the Mariners for making that play.”
The loss negated another strong outing from Gray, who pitched into the eighth despite fighting a head cold that is circling the A’s clubhouse. Gray’s only blemish while in the game came when he left a two-strike slider up to Ackley, snapping a 20-inning scoreless streak for Gray dating to last season.
He received no support, though, until the seventh. After going ahead 2-1, the A’s had a chance to pad their lead, with men still on first and third and one out. But a squeeze bunt by Tyler Ladendorf backfired as Phegley broke late from third base and was thrown out at home. The A’s challenged whether Mariners catcher Jesus Sucre had illegally blocked the plate, but the out was upheld.
Phegley said the bunt presented a “tough read,” as it bounced straight down, then kicked out to pitcher Danny Farquhar. Melvin said it looked like Phegley “just hesitated for a second.”
“There’s so many things you look back on this game that could have decided it one way or the other, probably for both teams,” Melvin said. “They just got one more big hit than we did.”