By Emily Zahner & Gabe Schapiro
On the mound for the Oakland Athletics in just his third Major League start, Sonny Gray (1-1, 1.00 ERA) shined bright and glowed with confidence. In the second of this three game series against the Mariners, Gray, facing off against Joe Saunders (10-12, 4.86 ERA), had the look of a veteran as the A’s were defeated by the Seattle Mariners 7-4 on Tuesday evening. The A’s fall to a record of 71-54, 1-½ games back of the first place Texas Rangers who picked up a victory tonight. The Mariners improve to 58-67, and remain in a distant third place.
The 23 year old from Smyrna, Tennessee lead off the game by shutting down the Mariners’ hitters 1-2-3. If run support was something he was worried about, the A’s offense took care of that in their half. Mariners starter Joe Saunders was hit hard early, as the A’s batted around and were a double away from hitting for the cycle against him in a 40-pitch first inning. Jed Lowrie, hitting lead-off for the fourth time this season, started off the game with a triple down the right field line. Homeruns by Josh Donaldson and Nate Frieman gave the A’s an early 4-0 lead in the first, giving Sonny some early run support. Gray cruised through two, then hit some trouble in the third. He started the inning with a four-pitch walk to Michael Saunders, and as lead-off walks so often do, it came back to bite him. Three batters later Nick Franklin got a hold of a change-up that was meant for the outside half and drifted in, sending it into the right field bleachers, making the score 4-2.
The A’s scattered a few hits through seven innings, but neither team was able to get on the board again through seven. Gray finished his night after seven strong innings, holding the Mariners to just two hits, two runs (both earned), and striking out seven on 94 pitches. Of his outing tonight, Manager Bob Melvin was pleased, saying “he was great… he’s got some presence out there, he certainly has the stuff and he continues to give us impressive outings.” In Sonny’s last outing, he fanned nine over eight innings. Gray is establishing himself as a competent and reliable started for the A’s, which with Bartolo Colon going to the DL and Brett Anderson still on rehab assignment, is arguably something Oakland needs the most. The A’s bullpen might be another topic of serious discussion.
The momentum drastically shifted to the Mariners in the eighth. Sean Doolittle was the first man out of the bullpen, and the Mariners bats, seemingly relieved to no longer be facing Gray, came alive again. Four consecutive hits later and the game was all tied at 4-4. Ryan Cook was summoned to stop the bleeding, but he couldn’t find his control and the runs kept on coming. After two wild pitches, two walks, and a fielders’ choice play at the plate that injured catcher Derek Norris, the Mariners had built up their first lead of the game, 7-4. Jesse Chavez, the third pitcher of the inning, stabilized the chaos and mercifully ended the inning. Bob Melvin later confirmed the Norris had fractured his left big toe.
The disastrous five-run eighth would prove to be too much to come back from, even for a never-say-die club like the Athletics. The back end of the Mariners bullpen kept the comeback kids at bay, closing down the ninth 1-2-3, clinching the 7-4 win. The A’s and Mariners complete their three game series tomorrow at 12:35pm.