OAKLAND, Calif. – There was some pregame talk about how the ballpark here can be as difficult a place as Safeco Field to hit home runs.
And yet, the Mariners and Oakland Athletics showed early in Friday night’s game that they both could take the Coliseum deep. The difference for the Mariners in this 8-2 loss was that the A’s had a man on base for one of their long balls and the extra run loomed large before Seattle booted the ball around late.
In the end, a two-run homer in the third inning by Stephen Drew off Blake Beavan was enough to keep the A’s ahead to stay. Oakland later put things away with a four-run seventh aided and abetted by a Dustin Ackley throwing error.
Oakland had seen its first batter of the game, Coco Crisp, take Beavan deep to right, while the Mariners countered with solo blasts from Trayvon Robinson in the second and then Michael Saunders in the seventh with his team down 4-1.
A crowd of 16,376 at the Coliseum watched the A’s fend off the Los Angeles Angels for one more night with just five games to go in the season. The Angels won at Texas, but remained two games behind the A’s in the wild-card race while the Tampa Bay Rays fell three behind.
The last time these clubs played at this ballpark, they were fighting for third place in the American League West right before the All-Star break. They were seen at the time – and still are, to a degree – as similar teams struggling to score runs, relying on pitching and defense to get by.
While the Mariners have improved slightly in the win-loss department since their .414 ball of the first half, the A’s have taken things to another level. Oakland has gone 52-26 (. 667) since July 1 to reverse what had been a mediocre 37-42 season to that point, leaving the Mariners and many other squads in their dust.
Oakland has done it largely with pitching, striking gold on a number of in-season call-ups. But they have also found some added offense as well, adding Drew near the top of an order that has at least 20 homers apiece in the middle from Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick.
It isn’t just the long ball doing it, either, as the Mariners found out in the seventh, when the A’s broke a 4-2 game wide open by loading the bases with none out via two walks and an infield single off Charlie Furbush. Stephen Pryor entered the game from there and walked Cespedes to force home a run.
Ackley then scooped up a grounder and had an easy force out at the plate and the possible start of a double-play. But Ackley threw the ball wide of its target, pulling catcher John Jaso well off the plate as the run scored.
Josh Donaldson then added two more runs to erase any doubts with a single to center.
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