Robinson Cano homered, Nelson Cruz homered, Ryon Healy homered. Just like that, the Seattle Mariners had rallied from a five-run deficit to tie it after four innings.
Except rallying against Lou Trivino, Fernando Rodney, Jeurys Familia and Blake Treinen at the back end of this Oakland Athletics bullpen isn’t as easy.
All threw upper 90s heat and after the Oakland Athletics scored the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning they held on to hand the Mariners a 7-5 defeat on Friday night at the Oakland Coliseum.
That’s why the A’s acquired those hurlers. They shut the Mariners down in the final three innings despite some semblance of the old Fernando Rodney experience when Mitch Haniger singled off him in the seventh and reached second for Robinson Cano.
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Cano grounded a ball up the middle but was thrown out by a shifted defense.
The A’s are 57-0 this year when leading after seven innings. Treinen and Familia combined to strike out five of the seven batters they faced in the final two innings.
“You get down by a run or two late, with the way their bullpen is going it’s tough,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told reporters afterward. “They have really good stuff down there.
“We were on (A’s starter Mike Fiers) tonight and we knew we had to get on him early in the game to get back into it and our guys responded. Just not enough after that. Their bullpen was really good tonight.”
Trivino has a 2.22 season ERA, Rodney’s is 2.47, Familia 2.82 and Treinen 0.94.
So back to where the Mariners (75-60) were entering Thursday, except now the calendar turns to September. They trail the Athletics by 5½ games for the American League’s final wild card spot to the playoffs with two games remaining in this crucial four-game series.
The Mariners need those next two games, starting with left-hander James Paxton’s return from the disabled list to start Saturday.
Mike Leake had been the Mariners most steady starter in his previous 10 outings before this past week. He clutched his hair in his hand while sitting on the dugout bench after exiting to a 6-5 Mariners deficit in the fifth inning.
He lasted 4 1/3 innings after that five-run first inning, allowed a lot of hard contact, didn’t have a feel for his breaking pitches and it amounted to 11 runs allowed over his past 10 1/3 innings pitched in his past two starts against the A’s and Diamondbacks.
Matt Chapman launched a solo home run off Leake with one out in the first inning for a quick A’s lead. To Leake’s credit, that could have been all the damage had Cameron Maybin not been turned around on a laser of a line drive toward the fence in center field.
A’s first baseman Matt Olson hit it with an exit velocity of 110-mph and Maybin got turned around a few times before extending his arm for the catch. It glanced off the end of his glove for an RBI double. It would have been the inning’s final out.
“It cut at the last second, but it’s a play I usually make 9 of 10 times,” Maybin told reporters. “Not an easy play, but a play I usually make.”
Instead, Stephen Piscotty followed with a two-run home run for a 4-0 A’s lead before Marcus Semien’s RBI double two batters later made it 5-0 – a day after the Mariners’ took a 5-0 first-inning lead.
“Mike Leake has been our most reliable guy, been real consistent all year,” Servais said. “He left some balls up early and he paid the price.”
Except then the Mariners unleashed their big-boy bats. Cano and Cruz hit back-to-back home runs off A’s starter Mike Fiers, who was acquired this month from the Detroit Tigers and had allowed four runs combined over his first four starts with his new team.
That cut the lead to 5-3 after Chris Herrmann’s RBI single in the second. Kyle Seager singled and then Healy, against his former team, rocked a two-run home run to follow the back-to-back jacks from Cano and Cruz.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The <a href="https://twitter.com/Mariners?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Mariners</a> rally to tie the game but fall in Oakland 7-5. Ryon Healy with one of three home runs for Seattle. <a href="https://t.co/8bnWZoA0GV">pic.twitter.com/8bnWZoA0GV</a></p>— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) <a href="https://twitter.com/ROOTSPORTS_NW/status/1035766359488049152?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 1, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Suddenly, it was tied – 5-5.
That was Cano’s sixth home run this year (his second since returning from an 80-game drug suspension), Cruz’s 33rd homer and Healy’s 24th.
But Olson took second on another outfield miscue in the fifth inning, this from Mitch Haniger, who bobbled the single hit his way in right field. He then scored the go-ahead run on Ramon Laureano’s sacrifice fly.
Let’s get to it. Three takeaways:
Mike Fiers had allowed four runs and three home runs combined over four starts since joining the A’s from the Detroit Tigers this month.
Then the Mariners struck for four runs and three home runs in the fourth inning.
Back-to-back home runs from Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz started it, then a Kyle Seager single before Ryon Healy’s homer. All the sudden a 5-1 A’s lead was evaporated.
Who hit it the hardest?
Cano’s traveled 385 feet at 103.7-mph exit velocity. Healy’s two-run shot went 393 feet at 102.8 mph exit velo, and Cruz’s homer went 387 feet.
So none particularly crushed, but they did the job. And after Dee Gordon’s single, Fiers’ day was done after 3 2/3 innings pitched.
The last time the Mariners hit three home runs in one inning was against the Astros in July 2016 from Cano, Seager and Dae-Ho Lee.
For starters …
Both these starting pitchers were in the dugout before tossing five innings.
Mike Leake allowed at least five runs in an inning for the second consecutive start.
He again limited the damage after the Diamondbacks jumped on him his last start, which is the benefit of a pitcher who has thrown as many innings in his career as Leake. He regrouped despite lacking bite on his breaking pitches in the first inning.
But that first frame seemed to gas him the rest of the way. He threw 30 pitches that inning.
“I worked hard that first inning and taxed some extra pitches throughout the four innings,” Leake said. “I didn’t have too much left.”
The Athletics had nine balls hit at exit velocities over 100 mph against Leake, with four of those in the first inning. That’s one night after Wade LeBlanc didn’t allow a single ball hit that hard in seven scoreless innings of a 7-1 Mariners win.
Leake answered with three scoreless innings before the Athletics regained the lead in the fifth with Ramon Laureano’s sacrifice fly to score Matt Olson.
Over his previous 10 starts, Leake was the Mariners’ most reliable starter, posting a 3.05 ERA over 62 innings. But these past two starts he’s allowed 11 runs in 10 1/3 innings pitched.
How much food truck entrees the Mariners would give back for a couple better plays in the outfield?
Two in particular cost them.
Cameron Maybin misplayed a 110-mph line drive from Matt Olson his way, spinning back and forth in center field before he reached and the ball glanced off his glove and over his head. A catch ends the inning, limiting the damage to one run.
Instead, Olson got an RBI double and Stephen Piscotty followed with a two-run homer for a 4-0 Oakland lead.
“It’s a difficult play, no doubt,” Servais said of Olson’s line drive past Maybin. “The toughest balls in center field are the ones right at you and over your head. The ball could be knuckling and moving around. He certainly got his glove on it. Big play in the game, no doubt. If he catches it we’re out of the inning and you save a ton of pitches for Leake.
“It’s not an easy play. It’s a tough one.”
Then in the fifth inning, Mitch Haniger bobbled a single hit his way in right field from Olson, who charged into second. Haniger got an error and Olson later scored the go-ahead run on Ramon Laureano’s sacrifice fly.
Play of the game
Matt Olson’s line drive was scorched 110-mph off his bat toward the wall in center field and Mariners center fielder Cameron Maybin had a difficult time reading it, twisting and turning before the ball grazed off the end of his glove over his head.
That would have been the final out of the first inning, instead it was an RBI double for Olson and the A’s went on to leave the first inning with a 5-0 lead. It could have been a 1-0 lead had Maybin came away with that catch.
The middle of Oakland’s order terrorized Mariners pitching. Matt Chapman, Jed Lowrie, Matt Olson and Stephen Piscotty each had at least two hits. Olson went 3-for-4, while Chapman and Piscotty hit homers.
For the Mariners, Ryon Healy had two hits against his former team for the second consecutive night, including the game-tying home run in the top of the fourth inning. That’s his 24th homer this season and he’s hitting .380 (19-for-50) since Aug. 11.
Healy was starting again because Jean Segura missed his second consecutive game with a bone bruise on his shin.
Blake Treinen is filthy at the end of that Athletics’ bullpen. He lowered his season ERA to 0.94 and earned his 34th save with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, striking out Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger.
But for the Mariners how about the new guy? Right-hander Shawn Armstrong pitch two perfect innings of relief and struck out the two final batters he faced – Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis. The Mariners recalled Armstrong from Triple-A Tacoma earlier this week for his Mariners debut after acquiring him in a trade from the Cleveland Indians this offseason.
Servais said with reinforcements set to arrive for the Mariners as their Sept. 1 call-ups, when their roster expands from 25 to 40 players, and left-hander Roenis Elias unavailable after tossing five innings in San Diego, they tried to get as close to five innings as they could with Mike Leake.
And with Paxton set to make his first start since coming off the disabled list on Saturday, they wanted to have extra relievers available Saturday.
If this were a day later, though, and the Mariners had been able to get their call-ups with them on Friday?
“It would have allowed us to play it a little different,” Servais said. “We’ve been an arm short going seven (relievers) here juggling the extra starter around and everything else we’ve done. We tried to get five innings out of our starter and that’s where we were at tonight and didn’t quite get there. But we’ll get some guys tomorrow.”