The second game of Saturday’s doubleheader was over in the third inning, or maybe even when you looked at the A’s starting line up before the game.
Thankfully for fans, it was only a seven-inning game, one in which the Mariners took batting practice on three rookie pitchers and demolished the A’s 12-3. A loss for the A’s but a good learning experience for the younger players.
The Mariners piled up eight runs in the third inning and it only got worse from there. Robbie Grossman had a pair of solo home runs for two of the A’s three runs, but a tough start only got tougher for Oakland.
Marcus Semien sat out the second game and Nate Orf played shortstop and had his first start of the 2020 season. Tony Kemp batted leadoff and played left and Mark Canha played center. Grossman played right field which allowed Stephen Piscotty to rest along side normal starting center fielder Ramon Laureano. Vimael Machin played second base and Tommy La Stella was the A’s designated hitter. Sean Murphy caught and most of the veterans sat out to give the youngsters some big league experience and a chance to prove themselves.
Bob Melvin spoke about the team taking a loss in both games:
“It is not a great feeling. It is a Major League Baseball game, you are trying to win. The first one was tough obviously … and then the second game we knew the pitching was going to be a little bit limited and tough and there were some guys we didn’t want to use in this game so it ended up getting a little bit out of hand.”
Justin Dunn (W, 4-1, 4.34 ERA) started the second game for Seattle and, just minutes after the A’s tough 5-1 loss in game one, Robbie Grossman (7) hit a solo shot to right to give the A’s an early 1-0 lead in the first. They hadn’t scored a run that early since their 6-4 win against the Dodgers on Wednesday when they scored three runs in the first.
Grossman did it again in the fifth, another solo shot (8) to right made it 9-3. His first two-homer game ever in the big leagues.
Paul Blackburn earned his first start and his first big league appearance of 2020 after pitching at the A’s alternate site in San Jose during the first 57 games this short season. Blackburn (L, 0-1, 27.00 ERA) retired his first seven batters before lasting one batter shy of the Mariners batting around the order in the third.
Not the best start for Blackburn but one to build off. He said:
“Just gotta keep grinding, not really much to take away from that. You give up seven runs in how many innings but ya, not much to take. Move on to tomorrow and just gotta get better.”
The nightmare third inning started with a Braden Bishop strikeout, but then a base hit and stolen base from Dee Strange-Gordon became the start to a messy inning. Joseph Odom singled in the right infield gap to put runners on the corners with one out. Kemp was playing very shallow in left and J.P. Crawford hit a hard ball that bounced over Kemp’s head off the wall to tie the game 1-1 on a standing double.
A wild pitch to Kyle Seager brought in Odom to make it 2-1. Blackburn walked Seager to put runners on the corners with one out for the second time in the inning. Ty France hit a hard ball that got through Jake Lamb playing third and landed in the left-field corner for a standing-double to make it 3-1 with men on second and third with just one out. Jose Marmolejos walked to load the bases, then Tim Lopes hit a soft fly ball that dropped in right field to make it 4-1. That put an end to Blackburn’s outing.
Blackburn said it was tough starting a game after not pitching in a single real game this season:
“I actually think I made better pitches in the third than the first two honestly. The double Crawford hit probabbly could have been. little lower, the changeup but i still think it was a pretty good pitch… game snuck up on me a little bit there but I think I made pretty good pitches that inning.”
James Kaprielian, another rookie, relieved Blackburn with the bases loaded and one out. Evan White hit a hard ground ball to Lamb, who made a diving play to the third base line but bobbled the ball to bring in another run. Bishop stepped up to the plate with bases loaded for his second at-bat in the inning after recording the only out on a check-swing called third strike. He walked to make it 6-1.
Gordon’s second at-bat of the inning was another single up the middle, driving in White and Bishop to make it 8-1. Kaprielian finally was able to pitch to a batter without the bases loaded and the two runners on the corners belonged to him. The end finally came when Kaprielian struck out Odum on a full count and Crawford grounded out to second to end the eight-run inning.
Grossman spoke about the season and how hard it has been:
“I think this has been physically and mentally the hardest season I have ever been a part of in the big leagues. Without a doubt, not even close… you wont go through a season like that ever again.”
Canha led off the fourth with a walk and Murphy hit a hard line drive to left-center gap for a standing double to put runners in scoring position with one out after a Matt Olson foul pop-up. Lamb hit an RBI base hit to right to make it 8-2 before Machin hit into a double play.
Solo homers from Seager in the fourth and White in the fifth made it 10-3. Back-to-back walks from Jordan Weems set the table for Crawford, who singled to left scoring Strange-Gordon for an 11-3 lead. Weems struggled to throw a first pitch strike but got out of the inning with just two earned runs. Weems pitched an inning and gave up two runs off two hits, two walks and a homer.
Grossman said he is not worried about his team heading into the postseason:
“I have no doubt in this team. We won the division, we are the best team in our division. I would take us over anyone. I just think this has been a grind this last month. Especially after the Houston thing, it has been a grind. We have played a lot of games and were just finishing up the season and played 3 games in 24 hours, that never happens. It has been a grind and everyone is ready for the playoffs.”
T.J McFarland pitched the sixth, allowing a solo homer to Lopes which made it 12-3. and then White hit a standing double off the wall in right-center with one out but McFarland retired the next two batters to keep the damage to a one-run inning.
Oakland would need a win and a Minnesota loss Sunday to finish as the second overall AL seed and play Cleveland in the wild card round. If the A’s remain in the third seed, they will host the Houston Astros Tuesday for Game 1. … Even though the A’s were the away team, both teams were able to walk up to the plate with their go-to songs playing.