In 41 mostly dominant starts against the A’s before Wednesday, Seattle Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez failed to complete more than four innings just once – on May 16, 2006, when he was a 20-year-old in his first major-league season.
Nearly 10 years later, the A’s again knocked out Hernandez after four innings and scored eight runs off him – yet lost 9-8.
“We finally get some hits, some good swings, make him work, get some runs off him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “And (we) kind of let him off the hook, disappointing. Game overall, disappointing.”
We’ve been priding ourselves on the job we’ve been doing out there, stranding runners and keeping us in the ballgame. And today we didn’t do that.
A’s reliever John Axford
A six-run fifth inning against Hernandez and the Seattle bullpen put the A’s ahead 8-4, but the Oakland bullpen squandered the lead over the next two innings. Ryan Dull, Sean Doolittle and John Axford combined to allow five runs on seven hits, while the A’s offense, ironically, went quiet after Hernandez left, going hitless over the final four innings of a three-game sweep by the Mariners at the Coliseum.
The bullpen has been one of the A’s strengths the first month of this season, posting a 2.46 ERA entering Wednesday, and Melvin had all of his top relievers rested and at his disposal. Starter Sean Manaea stymied the Mariners until the fifth, when they scored four runs in a span of five pitches with two outs. After the A’s retook the lead in the bottom of the fifth, Melvin turned to his bullpen.
In the sixth, Dull allowed a one-out home run to Dae-Ho Lee and a bunt single to Leonys Martin, who stole second, took third on catcher Stephen Vogt’s throwing error and scored on Nori Aoki’s sacrifice fly. Doolittle finished the inning but started the seventh by walking Nelson Cruz, who scored on a single by Kyle Seager. Axford entered and, two batters later, Lee crushed a 3-1 pitch into the left-field seats, erasing what remained of that four-run lead.
“We’ve been priding ourselves on the job we’ve been doing out there, stranding runners and keeping us in the ballgame,” Axford said. “And today we didn’t do that. None of us did that. … It’s just unfortunate that it happened for all of us there on the same day.”
It spoiled a chance for Manaea, the rookie left-hander making his second major-league start, to earn his first win. Manaea cruised through his first six hitters on 15 pitches and had nobody on with two outs in the fifth when Aoki hit a chopper over the pitcher for an infield single. Seattle’s rally built quickly from there.
Ketel Marte lined a first-pitch double to left-center, scoring Aoki. Robinson Cano shot a first-pitch single back up the middle. Cruz hit the second pitch he saw for a mammoth home run to center that cleared the row of suite windows some 30 feet above the ground.
“I should’ve done a better job of calming things down and taking my time,” Manaea said. “I felt like I was trying to rush things, get through the fifth inning … I should’ve stepped back a little bit and took my breath and done a lot better with that.”
We finally get some hits, some good swings, make him work, get some runs off him. And (we) kind of let him off the hook, disappointing. Game overall, disappointing.
A’s manager Bob Melvin, on Seattle’s Felix Hernandez
But if Manaea’s fifth inning snowballed, Hernandez’s became an avalanche. The first two A’s hitters singled, and when speedy Billy Burns bunted right back to him, Hernandez looked at third base before throwing to first too late, loading the bases with nobody out.
After an RBI single by Jed Lowrie, Josh Reddick hit a dribbler in front of the mound that Hernandez bobbled, letting Marcus Semien score the tying run. Khris Davis’ chopper scooted under the glove of third baseman Seager for two more runs. Hernandez, who entered Wednesday with a career 2.58 ERA against Oakland, then was removed, but his two remaining runners scored. Hernandez was charged with eight runs, four earned, the most the A’s have scored against him since that May 16 outing 10 years ago.
“There’s frustration all around the board,” Vogt said. “We put together some really good at-bats in that fifth inning and unfortunately we weren’t able to do that again.”
A poor finish defined the A’s homestand, which began with consecutive wins over the Houston Astros and ended with four losses in a row, the last perhaps the most frustrating of all.
“You get a four-run lead like that, we have our best (relievers) available for the game, we feel like we’re going to win that every time,” Melvin said. “And it didn’t happen today.
“Unfortunately that’s going to happen from time to time, but would’ve been a nice game to put away.”