SEATTLE — The chance was there in the first inning for Seattle to take advantage of Oakland’s Sonny Gray, with the middle of the Mariners order coming to the plate.
Seattle could only manage one run and Gray made certain that was all they got.
Gray allowed one run in seven innings, Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer and the Athletics won for the fifth time in six games by beating the Mariners 3-1 on Saturday night.
Gray (2-0) gave up his only run in the first after Seattle had runners at first and third and no outs. Gray stymied the Mariners from there, allowing only singles to Logan Morrison in the fourth and Robinson Cano in the sixth, and a double by Dustin Ackley in the seventh.
“What makes him good is he can throw three, four pitches for strikes at any time and his curve ball does have a lot of bite to it,” Morrison said.
It was another dominant performance by Gray who has given up only two earned runs in three starts this season, and earned his second win in a week against Seattle.
Donaldson’s first inning blow was the only offense Oakland needed. He lined a 2-0 pitch from Seattle starter Erasmo Ramirez (1-2) over the hand-operated scoreboard for the early lead.
Ramirez was at a loss afterward to explain his struggles and Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon was unhappy with the results after Ramirez had not pitched well his last start.
“He did not have command. I didn’t see command of the fastball. I didn’t see command of the secondary pitches,” McClendon said. “I’m very disappointed. I thought I would see better this time. It was a tough night for him right from the start.”
Oakland also got a wacky RBI single in the third from Brandon Moss that scored Coco Crisp, but the A’s should have scored more against the erratic Ramirez. In each of his five innings, Ramirez allowed the leadoff batter to reach. He gave up six hits and walked three, but managed to get through five innings, helping save Seattle’s bullpen.
“I don’t know what happened today,” Ramirez said. “The last two starts have been, I don’t know, the ball is just running too much now.”
Moss’ RBI came on a play where he was out for passing the runner ahead of him, one of two plays involving Ackley in left field. Ackley made a sliding grab of Moss’ drive to left center but lost the ball. Donaldson, who was on first, headed back when he saw Ackley glove the ball and was passed by Moss, creating the out.
Then in the sixth, Yoenis Cespedes hit a line drive to Ackley that he again lost just before he could transfer the ball to his bare hand. Cespedes believed he was out and never made it to first base, stopping short and heading back to the dugout. Ackley threw to shortstop Brad Miller, who threw to first for the unusual 7-6-3 putout.
Donaldson said the baserunners are put in a difficult position.
“I’ve been playing baseball for over 20 years now. If a ball goes in a glove it’s always been a catch to me,” Donaldson said. “It does make it tough as a base runner when a guy is diving and you see it go in his glove the first instinct is to go back, not to watch him transfer the ball to his hand. It’s chaos.”
Cano had Seattle’s lone RBI on a groundout in the first that scored Abraham Almonte but scoring chances were few for the Mariners. Gray struck out Ackley to end the fourth and Almonte to end the seventh with runners in scoring position.
Gray matched his career high with nine strikeouts. Sean Doolittle got four outs before Luke Gregerson got his first save despite giving up two singles in the ninth.
Gray has won his last five decisions going back to September 2013. . … RHP Chris Young will make his first start for Seattle on Sunday. Manager Lloyd McClendon said they would likely need to limit Young to about 90 pitches. Young has made only one appearance so far with the Mariners. … Oakland’s Coco Crisp was back in the lineup after missing the past four games with a sore wrist.