OAKLAND, Calif. - Josh Bard got his first chance to catch Michael Pineda since spring training and saw what the rest of baseball has been seeing from Seattle’s overpowering rookie the first half of the year.
Pineda and three relievers combined on a three-hitter and Bard hit his first home run of the season to lead the Mariners to a 2-1 victory over the Athletics on Monday.
“He’s really maturing,” said Bard, who came up from the minors last week. “He’s becoming that big horse, inning-eater guy that we need him to be. We talked to him hard today, making sure he came out ready to pitch in the first inning. Sometimes he gets caught pacing himself a little bit. He did a great job doing that.”
Justin Smoak added a tiebreaking RBI double in the seventh inning for the Mariners, who got their first back-to-back wins since June 2-3 against Tampa Bay.
The strong start by Pineda (8-5) helped spoil the return of Brandon McCarthy (1-5) from the disabled list for Oakland. McCarthy faced the minimum batters through 5 2-3 innings but ended up losing his fifth straight decision. He gave up two runs and four hits in 6 2-3 innings and is 0-5 in his last eight starts despite having six quality starts in that span.
This matchup between the two lowest scoring teams in the American League figured to be dominated by the pitching.
Pineda gave up one run that was aided by a popup lost in the sun, allowed just two hits and struck out seven in six innings. He allowed just one baserunner in his final four innings, retiring 12 of the final 13 batters he faced, to win for just the second time in his last eight starts.
“He looked like a very mature pitcher out there today,” manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s looked like that all year long. As the year has progressed, you’ve seen him do some things you love a pitcher to do.”
Aaron Laffey, David Pauley and Brandon League each pitched one scoreless inning of relief with League getting his 23rd save in 26 chances.
McCarthy, who had been out since May 19 with a right shoulder injury, was sharp from the start. He struck out two batters in a 10-pitch first inning, whiffed four of the first six hitters overall and retired the first nine batters on 34 pitches. But he wore down a bit after that.
Conor Jackson made a leaping grab in front of the left-field fence in the fifth inning to start a double play and Seattle struck for single runs in the sixth and seventh.
“I got tired pretty early, not having really gotten that high in pitch counts,” McCarthy said. “It was a little different. The intensity was ramped up, but I was able to get through it and I just kept battling. After the fifth I started to get a little physically tired.”
Bard’s two-out solo homer to right-center tied the game at 1 in the sixth inning. It was only the second homer McCarthy has allowed all season with Seattle’s Adam Kennedy getting the other in April.
Brendan Ryan then opened the seventh with a single and scored on Smoak’s double into the right-field corner that proved to be enough for the Mariners to win the series opener.
“Luckily Smoaky was able to get the head out and drive me in there for that second run,” Ryan said. “Still you can’t just assume we’re going to not give up more than three hits every game. We still need to put runs up on the board.”
The A’s did even less offensively, sending up three batters in five of Pineda’s six innings. Oakland got some help from the sun to score its only run in two games this season against the rookie.
Kennedy lost Hideki Matsui’s foul pop near third base in the sun to open the second inning, giving Matsui a reprieve. He followed with a sharp single to right field on the next pitch and later scored on Kurt Suzuki’s two-out single to left.
The A’s didn’t get another hit off until after Pineda left the game on Suzuki’s one-out single in the eighth inning off Pauley.
“He’s got a great arm,” Suzuki said of Pineda. “That fastball just jumps on you. He doesn’t make it easy. He had his pitches working, kept the ball down in the zone. He’s good. He’s young but he’s good.”
Seattle has 20 come-from-behind wins, one behind Toronto for most in the AL. … Mariners starters have allowed three runs in their past 31 innings. … Seattle C Miguel Olivo sat out a fifth straight game with a hamstring injury but is expected back in the lineup during this series. … A’s reliever Grant Balfour will throw a one-inning rehab assignment for Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday and is expected back from the DL this weekend in Texas. … Oakland is a major league worst 12-19 in one-run games.