OAKLAND, Calif. – The Mariners’ road trip went from great to just good on Sunday with a 6-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
Heading home from the first trip of the season with a 4-2 record with all of the games against America League West opponents is something the Mariners would’ve have gladly taken if offered at the start of the season.
But the prospect of going 5-1 to start the season was just intoxicating enough that it made falling short feel a little anti-climactic.
Manager Lloyd McClendon reminded his team that regardless of Sunday’s mistakes, the road trip was a positive and a good way to head into the home opener on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Angels.
“Any time you come off a road trip with a winning record, regardless of how you got there, that’s a successful trip,” he said. “I told our guys that it was tough today but we had a successful road trip and to rest up and get ready to play in front of our fans. I know they’re all excited to get back.”
A large reason for that success on the trip has been starting pitching. Coming into Sunday’s finale, Mariners starters had combined to go 4-0 with a 1.62 ERA (six earned runs in 331/3 innings pitched) with 37 strikeouts.
But Erasmo Ramirez couldn’t keep that run rolling. The right-hander struggled with his command all game and never quite found a rhythm.
“Today I didn’t feel it,” Ramirez said. “I didn’t feel like the strike thrower I am.”
The Mariners tried to him help out with some early run support. They scored two runs in the second inning as Abraham Almonte and Brad Miller both delivered two-out RBI singles. But for the second time this season, Almonte made a costly decision on the bases. He tried to go from first to third on Miller’s single and right fielder Sam Fuld threw him out to end the inning with Robinson Cano waiting to hit.
“It was a bad play,” Almonte said. “With two outs, it was a little bit risky. I will try to do better next time. If the ball was hit a little bit softer I might have had a chance, but the ball was hit so hard.”
McClendon wasn’t angry at Almonte. He understands this will happen early on.
“I’ve told my guys I want them to unleash their talents and be aggressive, but you also have to be intelligent,” McClendon said. “I said it before, ‘He’s going to make some mistakes.’ In that situation, you gotta know we got our best hitter coming to the plate. In this game, it’s unfortunate, the only way you learn is to make mistakes and learn from them.”
The 2-0 lead could have been so much more. The Mariners made it 3-0 in the third inning on Justin Smoak’s soft single up the middle to score Cano.
But the lead disappeared in the bottom half of the inning. With one out and runners on first and second, a poorly-placed fastball resulted in a three-run homer for Brandon Moss.
The pitch was supposed to be fastball down and away. Instead, it stayed up and over the middle of the plate.
“It was a bad pitch, bad location,” Ramirez said. “He got good contact, tie ballgame.”
The score remained tied until the bottom of the fifth inning. Ramirez gave up a lead-off single to Eric Sogard and then walked Coco Crisp. A wild pitch moved the runners into scoring position and Josh Donaldson gave the A’s the lead for good, beating out an infield single up the middle.
McClendon lifted Ramirez for reliever Chris Young, who gave up a sacrifice fly to make it 5-3.