MESA, Ariz. — If the Mariners and Athletics were looking to put everyone in the mood to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in traditional fashion…well, mission accomplished.
The two clubs staggered their way to an 11-11 tie on a hot Thursday afternoon when the Mariners erased a six-run deficit by scoring eight runs in the ninth inning before Oakland countered with two of its own.
"Our guys did a really good job of battling back there," manager Scott Servais said. Really good at-bats. Worked the count. Made them throw strikes. Things we talk about doing.
"Unfortunately, we just didn’t get it done."
The Mariners sent 14 batters to the plate in the ninth in turning a 9-3 deficit into an 11-9 lead. Chris Taylor drove in the go-ahead run with a two-out single.
But Oakland answered by scoring twice later in the inning against minor-league pitchers Matt Anderson and Osmer Morales. The A’s had the bases loaded when Morales got the final out.
The wild ending didn’t erase a disappointing start by James Paxton, who gave up seven runs in two-plus innings. He had been scheduled to pitch five innings.
"I just kind of lost the handle," he said. "I didn’t have my best stuff. My off-speed stuff, I went to that too much. I think I should have gone heavier with the fastball early because I was feeling good.
"When I lost the handle of the breaking stuff, I kind of lost the handle on the fastball. I should have known that early, figured that out and gone mostly fastball/change-up."
Much of the damage came with two outs
Paxton retired the first two hitters in the first inning before Josh Reddick served a soft single into center field. Danny Valencia followed with a drive to center — definitely not soft — for a two-run homer.
The second inning was similar. Paxton got two quick outs, then walked a batter and hit another. Coco Crisp then rocked a two-run double off the left-field wall for a 4-0 lead.
Jed Lowrie followed with a drive over the head of right fielder Daniel Robertson for an RBI double and a 5-0 lead.
Paxton didn’t get an out in the third. He exited with the bases loaded and a run in after giving up two singles and two walks. David Rollins permitted another run before ending the inning. So it was 7-0 after three.
The Mariners (8-8-2) displayed some early pop. Robinson Cano and Rob Brantly hit homers against Oakland starter Kendall Graveman. Closer Steve Cishek also delivered a scoreless inning in his first outing since March 6.
"I didn’t know if I was going to be rusty or not going out there," said Cishek, who had battled some biceps soreness.
"But it was like 100 degrees in the bullpen. It wasn’t tough to get loose. I just threw a couple of pitches, and I was ready to go."
PLAY OF THE GAME: It wasn’t only James Paxton who got rocked in Oakland’s three-run second inning.
A throw by right fielder Daniel Robertson, after fielding Jed Lowrie’s RBI double, took a bad hop and struck shortstop Ketel Marte near the eye.
"The ball went into the runner," Marte said. "I lost the ball. It came up and hit me. Very hard (ground), but I’m good."
Trainer Rob Nodine came onto the field to examine Marte, who remained in the game. Marte remained in the game through the top of the seventh inning.
PLUS: Reliever Blake Parker added another scoreless inning to his bid to win a job in the bullpen. He has allowed two hits in five scoreless innings in five appearances…catcher Steve Clevenger returned from four-day absence due to the flu and had a single in two at-bats as the DH…Mike Zunino snapped a 1-for-16 spring by getting two hits in the ninth inning.
MINUS: Marte continues to struggle at the plate. His average is down to .192 (5-for-26) after going hitless in three at-bats…outfielder Boog Powell is also sliding. He is down to .148 (4-for-27) after going 0-for-3…Efren Navarro was also 0-for-3, which dropped his average to .130 (3-for-23).
QUOTABLE: One of the perks afforded to veteran players is they don’t have to make the longer road trips in spring training. But second baseman Robinson Cano made the trip to Mesa.
"All of our veterans will make one trip," manager Scott Servais said. "Today is his day."
Cano said, "This is my first time here."
He didn’t stay long. Cano exited the game, and Hohokam Stadium, after hitting a two-run homer in the fourth inning.
SHORT HOPS: The Mariners scratched first baseman Stefen Romero prior to the game and replaced him in the starting lineup with Dae-Ho Lee. Manager Scott Servais said he didn’t know what caused Romero to miss the game.
UP NEXT: The Mariners play another American League West opponent at 1:10 p.m. Friday when the Texas Rangers send a split squad to Peoria Stadium.
Right-hander Nathan Karns is slotted for five innings in his fourth spring start. Adrian Sampson, Joaquin Benoit, David Rollins and Jonathan Aro are also scheduled to pitch.
Texas lists right-hander Pedro Payano as its starter.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners