SEATTLE – In a game that pitted the pitchers with the two lowest earned-run averages in the history of Safeco Field, balls flew out of the ballpark at a surprising rate.
But in the end, four homers by the Oakland Athletics trumped one by the Mariners, and Oakland handed Seattle a 6-3 loss on Friday that dropped them a season-high 11 games under .500.
On the heels of Thursday’s heartbreaking loss in Anaheim, the Mariners watched the Athletics score all their runs via homers – two by a rapidly rising nemesis, Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes’ second blast, off still-struggling reliever Tom Wilhelmsen in the ninth, stretched a one-run Oakland lead to three.
Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma came into the game with the lowest ERA of any pitcher with at least 60 innings (1.88) at Safeco, followed closely by Bartolo Colon (1.91), who happened to be Oakland’s starter.
But Iwakuma, who had given up just five earned runs in 48.2 innings at home this year, ran into immediate trouble on this balmy night.
Facing Cespedes, Iwakuma gave up a massive two-run homer to left. It was Cespedes’ ninth homer against the Mariners in 30 career games (with one home run to come later), and ended Iwakuma’s streak of 21 consecutive innings at Safeco without allowing an earned run.
But the long ball became the Mariners’ friend in the third off Colon, who came in with the best record (10-1) of any visiting pitcher at Safeco with at least seven decisions. Following one-out singles by Brendan Ryan and Endy Chavez, rookie Nick Franklin launched a blast into the right-field bleachers for a three-run homer.
Iwakuma didn’t hold that lead long, however. Not even for one batter, in fact, as Jed Lowrie led off the fourth with a homer to center. It was the first time in 18 starts and 25 career appearances at Safeco that Iwakuma had allowed a multi-homer game. Lowrie had gone 62 games since his last round-trippper.
The Mariners didn’t help themselves on the base paths. Kyle Seager led off the sixth with a single, but Oakland catcher Derek Norris threw him out at third when he tried to advance two bases on a passed ball. Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez followed with singles, but Colon worked out of it.
In the seventh, Michael Saunders led off with a beautiful bunt single but was promptly picked off first base by Colon.