O.CO COLISEUM — It could have been worse. It could have been much worse.
The Oakland A’s (20-15) were swept Wednesday by the Seattle Mariners with the third loss of their scheduled three-game series coming on a bullpen collapse and a final score of 6-4.
Despite the sweep, Oakland followed it up with an impressive 2-0 win over Seattle, which made up for an April rainout.
A loss there would have spelled two series sweeps occurring on the same afternoon. Instead, Oakland left holding sole possession of first place.
Oakland’s extra-innings loss in the afternoon’s first game came against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez (6-1/3 IP, 3 ER, 0 K, 11 H), with Dan Straily (6 IP, 3ER, 3 K, 3H) starting for Oakland.
Despite hitting the Seattle right-hander, their own pitching struggled under their own load.
After Brandon Moss tripled to deep centerfield to score catcher John Jaso, Oakland led 4-3 entering the top of the 8th inning.
But A’s relief pitcher Francisco Abad walked the second batter he faced, and Luke Gregerson was called in to toe the mound.
Gregerson would walk pinch hitter Stefen Romero, leaving runners at first and second. The Mariners’ big offseason acquisition, Robinson Cano, singled to center, allowing center fielder Michael Saunders to cross home plate and knotting the score at four runs apiece.
Though the A’s would get out of the inning with the sole run allowed, the Oakland offense would be unable to muster anything more.
In the top of the 10th inning, Michael Saunders would reach base again, steal second base, touch third base on a sacrifice fly and then be sent home on an infield hit. Robinson Cano crossed the money bag during the following pitch sequence.
Oakland found redemption in the nightcap, mostly in the form of a dominant performance from spot-starter Drew Pomeranz, who the team traded for during the offseason.
Pomeranz was near-perfect over a five-inning, 68-pitch performance in which he struck out five and allowed only two baserunners.
No Mariners were able to score and the A’s offense, while meager, was able to add one in the win column.
Oakland scored their first run on a Jed Lowrie single that put Craig Gentry across home and their second on a Yoenis Cespedes homer.
On Pomeranz’s performance, manager Bob Melvin said:
“We wanted him to throw around 70 pitches, and we couldn’t have expected more than that. … His two-seamer was working for him, he had a good curveball. It was pretty fantastic for a guy that hasn’t started a game for us in spring or during the regular season.”
Pomeranz’s solid outing comes with good timing.
The A’s have lost two of their best pitchers after Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin underwent Tommy John surgery.
Pomeranz came to Oakland in a trade with the Rockies for starting pitcher Brett Anderson, and never had good numbers with Colorado.
He explained the change — not by blaming the Rocky Mountain that allows hitters the long ball much more than other ballparks — by crediting adding more weapons to his own pitching arsenal:
“I think it’s having a secondary pitch. I’ve had my curveball this year and I haven’t had it for the last couple years. Obviously it makes a big difference. Once you get predictable, it’s hard to pitch well.”
Pomeranz has now made five appearances for the A’s and not allowed a single run. Another stat that comes in for Pomeranz is one of the more bizarre variety.
He now has 17 consecutive starts with five or fewer innings pitched, the longest such streak since at least 1914.
Would-be closer Jim Johnson also had a good day, recording his first save for the A’s since the original series finale on April 6. Johnson has struggled, losing his job as closer initially after recording five earned runs in his first three innings with Oakland.
Relief pitcher Ryan Cook was pulled after recording a strikeout, with forearm tightness. Cook told SFBay that he didn’t feel that the injury was severe and he doesn’t expect anything when he undergoes an MRI on Thursday.