It started off so well. It started off with speed. It started off with the hope that this roadtrip would be better than the last. We all know that baseball can be cruel to hopes. After all, our high expectations for the seasons were drug down, down, down after the first week of the season.
The Mariners kicked off their second roadtrip against the Oakland Athletics, a team that’s a bit of a mess. It started off well with a Jarrod Dyson single. Mitch Haniger flied out to right field and Dyson advanced to second. He tagged up at first and went to second. Who does that? Dyson does that. He later scored on a Robinson Cano single; he scored a run that wouldn’t have been scored without his speed. That’s what speed do.
It started off so fun. That speed is fun. That speed takes singles and walks and transforms them into doubles and triples. It makes for exciting baseball. It makes for the kind of baseball that always gives you hope.
But, baseball can be cruel to hope.
The beat, beat, beat of the Oakland Coliseum drum provided a soundtrack to the slow unraveling. The beat, beat, beat of Mariner miscues.
James Paxton started the game. He hadn’t allowed a run this season and we hoped to see him extend that streak. In the third inning, though, Paxton yielded three straight singles to Jaff Decker, Rajai Davis, and Adam Rosales. Rosales’s single scored Decker and the streak was over. A throw from Mitch Haniger bounced off of second base and allowed Davis to follow Decker across the plate. Nothing lasts forever, especially scoreless pitching innings. He had trouble with his command and his breaking pitches, and luck and BAPIB conspired to take the streak away.
In the fifth inning, Leonys Martin misplayed a routine single to center field. He knelt to catch Rajai Davis’s happily rolling single and completed missed it. The ball rolled right between the wickets and around to third went Davis. Davis easily scored on a sacrifice fly and Paxton left the game. He yielded 5 runs in his 4.1 innings, struck out 8, and walked 1.
The drum continued to beat and a xylophone of some sort was added to the cacophony of noise reverberating in the stadium. The Mariners offense beat their own drum. Taylor Motter continued being awesome. In the second inning, he smashed an outside fastball against the left field wall for a double. In the sixth inning he smashed a line drive two-run home run to center field:
These are the details on Motter's homer pic.twitter.com/GFyW8vVTHh— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) April 21, 2017
He is much stronger than he looks. His season has come out of nowhere, but he is sustaining that hope hit after hit.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the A’s took the lead for good on the only run Evan Scribner allowed in his relief of James Paxton. Dan Altavilla followed with a rough seventh inning, an uncharacteristic off night for him. The three runs he yielded were enough to put the game out of reach and the A’s held a 9-5 lead going into the ninth inning.
But, hope, it springs eternal. Danny Valencia gave a brief moment of springing hope when he led off the ninth inning with a double. He scored a few batters later on a Dyson sacrifice fly. Then, Haniger stepped to the plate. He was looking to extend his hitting streak, and looking to extend the Mariner’s hopes.
Both were extinguished two pitches later when he grounded into a force out at second base.
The game wasn’t a collapse, or a brutal pummeling. It was a sustained beat of Mariner miscues of which the A’s took advantage. If a few things had gone differently, the Mariners could have won.
This loss doesn’t feel dire like the early losses. We know they can win games. They are fun, they have speed, and things will come together a little better as they warm up. The miscues may dog them this year. The bullpen and rotation may stumble. But there are reasons to hope. If this is going to be a playoff team, they need to learn how to put the details together. We will hope that happens, and hope that baseball is kind to that hope.
- The Mariners only stranded one runner in scoring position tonight. They stranded their other four runners on first.
- Haniger’s hitting streak ended, but his streak of reaching base safely is at 26 games, going back to last season.
- The A’s starting pitcher, Cesar Valdez, is a fun story. Of course I wanted to see the Mariners win, but I was happy to see Valdez do okay. He came into the game with only 20 innings of Major League experience, all from 2010. He had pitched in the Mexican League and reentered American baseball last season in the A’s system. He was a desperation callup due to injuries, but it’s gotta give you the warm fuzzies to see a guy work his way back like that.
- Mike Zunino drew his second walk of the season and hit his fourth double tonight.
- Dan Vogelbach hit a grand slam for the Tacoma Rainiers tonight. Valencia has got to be hearing his footsteps.