OAKLAND -- Chris Young is by no means an unknown commodity -- the 34-year-old Mariners right-hander broke into the majors in 2004, was an All-Star in 2007 and has the distinction of being among the tallest players in baseball at 6-foot-10, which means he won’t exactly sneak up on you.
Still, Young spent most of his career in the National League with the Padres and Mets, and the only A’s players to have faced him before this season were Coco Crisp and Nick Punto, who each had a handful of at-bats. They’ve now seen him three times in 2014 in two starts and a relief appearance; in the two starts, Young has thrown 12 innings and allowed two runs, both on one swing of Brandon Moss’ bat in the A’s 4-2 loss to Seattle at the Coliseum on Monday.
"You don’t see him a lot, he’s an acquired taste," A’s manager Bob Melvin said.
Moss, whose fourth-inning homer provided all the A’s offense and who also drew a walk off Young in a long seventh-inning at-bat, perhaps described best the challenge of facing Young, who allowed two runs on three hits in six innings Monday.
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"I think it’s his arm angle and his height," Moss said. "He’s 6-foot-10, he’s throwing out of the sky. And then the pitch up looks soft, it looks good to hit, but you see what we do with it -- we foul it off all the time. And then when he goes down, it looks like it’s so far down that you can’t hit it, but it stays at the knees."
For those reasons, Moss said, Young is "a tough guy to square up," despite the fact that he doesn’t throw hard -- he mostly topped out in the mid-80s on the Coliseum radar gun. Melvin also said Young typically hovers around the top of the strike zone, but was doing a good job of locating down Monday and threw more breaking balls than the A’s saw in their previous two looks at him this season.
Overall, there just weren’t many hard-hit balls against Young, who didn’t allow a hit until Jed Lowrie’s fourth-inning single and walked two. The A’s best chance at a rally came in the seventh, when Josh Donaldson singled and Moss walked with no outs to chase Young from the game. Charlie Furbush, though, got Alberto Callaspo to hit into a double play, and after Derek Norris walked, pinch hitter Yoenis Cespedes popped out.
Since lighting up the scoreboard in Texas while sweeping the Rangers, the A’s have now scored nine runs in their last four games, including the three-game series in Boston. They did face some tough starting pitching from the Red Sox -- Clay Buchholz and John Lester were particularly effective -- and while Young doesn’t quite carry the reputation of those guys, he was just as good against the A’s on Monday.
"That’s just how it goes," catcher John Jaso said. "Maybe tomorrow we’ll come out and score 10, maybe we’ll win a 1-0 ballgame. You never know."
* Scott Kazmir took the loss for the A’s and his first loss since Sept. 21 of last season, snapping a six-game winning streak that was tied for the left-hander’s career high. In his first start against the Mariners this season, he retired the first 10 batters. This time, the Mariners jumped on him early with back-to-back singles leading off the first inning by Michael Saunders and Stefen Romero, both of whom eventually scored.
Kazmir had Saunders in an 0-2 count and said he wanted to throw a fastball away on the pitch Saunders hit for a single, but left it over the middle of the plate. Also a mistake was an 0-1 changeup to Romero in the fifth, which the Mariners right fielder hit for his first career home run.
"It wasn’t my best of days, but I had to battle out there -- that’s how you’re going to feel most of the time," Kazmir said. "Couple pitches that I wanted back.
"It was more just, I’d say, put-out pitches. It wasn’t location, just didn’t have the action that I necessarily wanted."
Both Melvin and Jaso said it seemed like Kazmir’s velocity was down some on Monday from his previous starts, but Jaso said that was likely a "blip on the radar. The last outing I caught him, he was throwing 94. So it’s probably just whatever."
One thing Kazmir did remarkably well in April was pitch himself out of jams -- opposing hitters before Monday were just 4-for-34 against him with runners in scoring position. On Monday the Mariners had two such hits against him -- Corey Hart’s RBI single in the first and Brad Miller’s RBI single in the sixth, the two-run difference in the game.
* That sixth inning was an adventurous one for Moss in left field. Miller’s single actually was a line drive that Moss lost momentarily in the lights -- he shielded his eyes and made a play just to keep the ball from bouncing by him, but Cole Gillespie scored from second on the play as Moss’ throw in short-hopped the cut-off man Donaldson, who couldn’t get a relay home.
"Sometimes those plays feel worse than errors because you feel helpless," Moss said. "At least when you make an error, you know it’s your fault. Shoot, sometimes it happens, you can kind of take ownership for it.
"But when something like that happens, especially when Kaz was battling, he didn’t have his best stuff today but he was pitching, trying to go after guys -- and stuff like that keeps happening, that’s tough. It honestly made me more mad than if I made an error."
Miller then stole second and third base, but was thrown out trying to score on a grounder to Donaldson by Mike Zunino. Saunders then singled to left, and Moss threw out Zunino trying to advance to third to end the inning.
"I got to the ball and saw that he was going to third, so I just threw him out," said Moss, who had one outfield assist in each of the past two seasons. "That was a play that kind of just happened."
* One interesting note from the seventh inning -- after saying pre-game that Josh Reddick (ankle) was off-limits Monday, Melvin sent him out to pinch hit for Craig Gentry against right-hander Dominic Leone. When Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon then brought in left-hander Joe Beimel, though, Melvin replaced Reddick with Yoenis Cespedes.
Assuming Reddick was off-limits, it seemed a savvy move by Melvin to get Cespedes his at-bat against a left-handed reliever, although Cespedes popped out. Melvin didn’t deny that was the end goal of the substitutions, but did say Reddick might have batted had the Mariners not gone to the lefty.
"He was good enough to be able to swing the bat," Melvin said. "Good enough to if they had stayed with it, potentially we stay with it."
* It was in a losing cause, but Fernando Abad relieved Kazmir in the seventh and pitched a scoreless inning. Abad now has gone 13 1/3 innings over 14 appearances on the season without allowing a run.
* Donaldson has reached base safely in 27 consecutive games with his single Monday. The only A’s streak longer in the past six seasons? Donaldson last year -- he reached in 28 games in a row from Aug. 25 to Sept. 23.
* Game two of the series has A’s right-hander Jesse Chavez (2-0, 1.89) going against Mariners lefty Roenis Elias (2-2, 3.09). First pitch at 7:05 p.m.