Over the recent 2-4 homestand, the Mariners were forced to flush a pair of ugly defeats, removing them from their memory to focus on the next game. Seattle will have to repeat that process after a 6-1 loss to the Athletics in Oakland Monday.
The Mariners have dropped five of seven games after sweeping the Red Sox in Fenway Park, slipping one game behind the Royals in the race for the final American League playoff spot.
Oakland, which had its own troubles entering the Labor Day matinee, having lost five of six, was fresh off a lengthy tongue lashing Sunday from manager Bob Melvin in a closed-door team meeting immediately following a sweep by AL West Division-leading Angels. In response, the A’s came out fired up.
Chris Young endured his second consecutive rough outing. The Athletics jumped all over him with two outs in the first inning a game. Nine days earlier, he threw 93 pitches in 3.2 innings against the Red Sox. The Mariners gave the veteran, who hasn’t pitched more than 140 innings since 2007, extra rest. Didn’t matter.
Young left a 79 mph changeup in the middle of the plate to Adam Dunn. The A’s newest acquisition deposited the pitch over the wall in right field for a two-run homer in his first plate appearance with the A’s. It was a harbinger of what was to come; Young fooled no one the rest of the inning.
Brandon Moss followed with a four-pitch walk, Jed Lowrie singled and Stephen Vogt walked to load the bases. On a 3-2 pitch, Geovanny Soto lined a single to left to give Oakland a 4-0 lead and end Young’s afternoon. Before the inning ended, Eric Sogard singled home a fifth run against reliever Lucas Luetge.
Young (12-7, 3.46 ERA) gave up five runs on four hits and two walks. It was the shortest outing of the season for the Princeton product, coming against a team that he was sharp against previously, carrying a 2.25 ERA over 20 innings against the A’s.
The blowout loss overshadowed a brilliant outing by Taijuan Walker in relief. The 22-year-old was recalled from AAA Tacoma prior to the game along with six others as part of the annual roster expansion in September.
In his fourth appearance with the Mariners, and first career outing from the bullpen, Walker allowed one run on six hits and two walks in six innings. He struck out five while showcasing a simplified delivery.
A couple of minor mechanical adjustments helped Walker post a handful of good starts in August with the Rainiers.Walker carried it over Monday. His fastball command was much better, topping out at 97 mph, and his off-speed offerings were thrown for strikes.
The effort of Walker gave Seattle a chance, but it could get nothing done against A’s starter Jason Hammel.
One of GM Billy Beane’s July acquisitions that have re-made the Oakland roster, Hammel pitched eight stellar innings Monday. He gave up three hits and a walk to go with five strikeouts. The lone run was a solo homer by Brad Miller in the sixth inning.
Oakland responded with a run in its following at-bat as Josh Donaldson doubled home Josh Reddick.
It will be interesting to see whether Young remains in the rotation after this latest debacle. His 151 innings are the most for him in seven years and his velocity was noticeably lessened Monday. The recall, and fine performance of Walker, offers McClendon an alternative.
The Mariners pitch fellow rookie James Paxton Tuesday as they look to flush another ugly defeat.
In addition to Luetge and Walker, the Mariners recalled 1B Justin Smoak, OF Stefen Romero, 1B/DH Corey Hart, C Humberto Quintero and RHP Carson Smith prior to Monday’s game . . . Smith made his MLB debut and retired the only batter he faced . . . Kyle Seager extended his hitting streak to six games with a single in his second at-bat.