SEATTLE — It seemed like a bit of good fortune a few days ago for the Mariners when a bout of food poisoning knocked Oakland ace Sonny Gray out of a scheduled start this weekend at Safeco Field.
The Athletics ran out another retread left-hander Saturday night in Rich Hill, and the Mariners’ lineup responded by again turning fetal in a 6-1 loss at Safeco Field.
Hill gave gave up one run and five hits in six innings while walking one and striking out 10. Read that again: 10 strikeouts in six innings. He didn’t make it through the third inning in his previous start against the White Sox.
"He was locating the fastball and using the off-speed stuff really well," said Chris Iannetta, whose homer in the second inning provided the Mariners with their only run
"He was getting his curveball over for strikes whenever he wanted to. It was his go-to pitch in big situations. Early in the count, he was using it. He was very versatile with it."
The Mariners had just four hits Friday in a 3-2 loss when Oakland started left-hander Eric Surkamp after recalling him earlier in the day from the minors.
"We haven’t swung the bat very well, obviously, the last couple of nights," manager Scott Servais said. "Rich Hill threw the ball really well. Obviously, he had us off our game tonight."
What all this likely means is the Mariners, who have lost three of four to left-handed starters, can expect opponents to be lining every possible lefty starter for the foreseeable future.
"It’s a little early," Iannetta said. "We’re just going to try to get good at-bats. Everyone is working hard to do that. You’re going to have nights when it’s like this. Unfortunately, we’ve had two in a row."
Oakland scored the only runs it needed Saturday in the first inning against Nathan Karns who, in his Mariners’ debut, needed 35 pitches to get the first three outs.
The Athletics scored twice with two outs on shift-beating RBI grounders by Danny Valencia and Jed Lowrie. Karns (0-1) pitched through the fifth; he gave up four runs and seven hits while striking out six and walking one.
"They did a great job of battling out there," Karns said. "At times, I was not as crisp as I would like to be to start a game. They definitely worked the counts. They fouled off some tough pitches."
The Athletics extended their lead with singles runs in the sixth against Tony Zych and the seventh against Vidal Nuno. The Mariners, meanwhile finished with just five hits.
One (possible) good bit of news: The Mariners face a right-hander, Chris Bassitt, in Sunday’s series finale.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Center fielder Leonys Martin showed off his arm in the first inning after botching a pick-up when Jed Lowrie sent an RBI single up the middle.
Stephen Vogt was running from first on the play and tried to score. Martin retrieved the ball and made a strong throw to the plate for the inning’s final out.
PLUS: While defensive shifts plagued the Mariners at key points, one paid a dividend in the fourth. Second baseman Robinson Cano ranged from short right field to short right-center to turn Yonder Alonso’s apparent single into an out with a strong across-the-body throw to first…Chris Iannetta had a homer and a walk in four plate appearances, which actually dropped his on-base percentage to .533…lefty reliever Mike Montgomery worked a one-two-three ninth inning and has retired nine of 10 batters in his two outings.
MINUS: Nelson Cruz received his 2015 Silver Slugger award prior to Friday’s series opener. He the went a weak 0-for-6 while leaving seven runners on base before grounding a single to right in the sixth inning…Left fielder Nori Aoki made an ill-conceived dive for Danny Valencia’s leadoff fly ball in the Oakland eighth. The result was a double, which turned into the Athletics’ final run…Kyle Seager is 0-for-7 with a walk over the last two games.
STAT PACK: Cano had a rulebook double to right in the third inning, which gave him a 21-game hitting streak dating to last season.
QUOTABLE: Mariners pitcher Nathan Karns on getting victimized twice in the first inning on slow two-out grounders that beat the infield shift for RBI singles: "I’m aware we’re going to shift. We’re going to play the numbers, and I’m fine with that. It’s tough when it goes against you. When it works for you, you love it."
SHORT HOPS: The Mariners have homered in their first five games for the first time since 1998. Eight different players have home runs…Oakland’s Coco Crisp stole his 300th career base when he swiped second in the first inning. He got No. 301 in the fifth inning…Mariners manager Scott Servais won his first replay challenge and won’t likely have an easier one. First-base umpire Gerry Davis badly missed Nori Aoki beating the throw on an infield grounder in the first inning…Davis had another bad miss when Aoki grounded to first in third inning. Davis called Aoki safe, Oakland challenged and won easily.
UP NEXT: The Mariners and Athletics conclude their three-game series at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (0-1, 1.50 ERA) will start against Oakland right-hander Chris Bassitt (0-0, 6.75).
The game can be see on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners