The Seattle Mariners Joseph Odom gave it a ride but Oakland A’s outfielder Robbie Grossman was ready to take a jump and reach up for the catch for the out in the eighth inning of Fri Sep 25 2020 game at the Oakland Coliseum (AP News photo)
Seattle 1 5 1
Oakland 3 9 0 (10 innings)
By Lewis Rubman
OAKLAND–The Athletics’ poor showing at the plate last night in Los Angeles left a few people wondering whether Houston has a monopoly on sign stealing. That’s one means, and not, perhaps, the most fruitful— of coming to terms with what probably is the team’s most glaring weakness. Another way is to take the historical approach.
The 1906 Chicago White Sox, the fabled Hitless Wonders, had a team batting average of .230 and went on to win the World Series. Oakland’s collective BA going into tonight’s game against the Mariners was .222.
The original Hitless Wonders didn’t have the designated hitter rule to boost their numbers, so let’s just call the two squads even and, as WC Fields said, take the bull firmly by the tail and look the situation squarely in the face. . . and get on with the business at hand.
The first time Seattle’s Yüsei Kikuchi (菊池 雄星,2-4, 5.93) faced the .the Athletics was in the lefty’s major league debut, on March 21, 2019. It was the first time a player born in Japan began his MLB career in his native land, but that was not the big story of the day.
What garnered headlines over the entire world of baseball wasn’t an entry but an exit. That night, Kikuchi started a game, but Ichiro Suzuki ended a career that will put him in two Hall of Fame, in Tokyo and Cooperstown.
Kikuchi pitched well that evening, throwing 91 pitches over 4- 2/3 innings and giving up two runs, only one earned, while striking out three while walking only one. The rest of his season wasn’t that impressive.
His record for the year was 6-11,5.46 with a WHIP of 1.52. His record for tonight was very impressive. He went six innings without surrendering a run, allowing four hits, striking out five and walkling three. He threw 99 pitches, of which 40 were balls.
Opposing Kikuchi’s was the A’s most reliable hurler of 2020, Chris Bassitt (5-2,2.57). He went seven frames, in which he shut out Seattle on five hits while striking out six without issuing a single base on balls. Of his 81 offerings, 56 were strikes.
Tonight’s contest was, it goes without saying, a pitchers’ duel. But that doesn’t mean it was dull.
Oakland threatened in the bottom of the second when Matt Olson’s ground ball to to shallow right bounced off the glove of second baseman Ty France, playing in the shift, and Khris Davis followed with a slicing double off the right field wall that sent Olson to third.
But Stephen Piscotty struck out on a three and two pitch, and Jake Lamb popped out to short to end the threat. In the fourth, Marcus Semien’s double to right center again put a man in scoring position with one out. But he was thrown out trying to steal third. In fifth, Mark Canha led off with a two bagger to right center, only to be stranded on third after Olson walked and Davis hit into an around the horn double play. Then Piscotty grounded out to first.
In the sixth, it was Seattle’s turn to be frustrated. Joseph Odom’s sharp single to right and JP Crawford’s Texas League safety to left put runners on first and second with one down. Bassitt left them there by striking out Kyle Lewis and Kyle Seager.
Manager Scott Servais pulled Kikuchi after six frames. His line was.
After Kikuchi’s replacement, Yohan Ramírez, helped by another Oakland baserunning error (Robbie Grossman was picked off first), wriggled out of some trouble of his own, Yusmeiro Petit took over mound duties for the A’s in the top of the eighth. He set the Mariners down, 1,2,3.
Seattle brought in Anthony Misiewicz to pitch the bottom of the inning. He, too, tred a perilous path. After Tommy La Stella popped out, Ramón Laureano slammed a first pitch cutter to left for a double.
The ensuing intentional walk to Canha was a smart move, but it backfired when Misiewicz unleashed a wild pitch that moved both runners up a base. But Olson struck out, and Tony Kemp, pinch hitting for Davis, hit a hard liner to left that was snared in an excellent play by Tim Lopes.
Liam Hendricks (whom else did you expect?) struck out all three batters he faced in the Seattle ninth (what else did you expect), although he needed to come back from a 3-0 count on Seager to do so.
Erik Swanson set the A’sdown in order in the ninth, and so Jake Diekman started the tenth. Pinch runner Dee Strange-Gordon, emplaced on second by the 2020 extra inning rule, advanced to third when pinch hitter Luis Torres flew out to right and scored on a passed ball.
The A’s now found themselves pretty near where they wanted to be, one run behind in the bottom of the tenth. Joey Gerber was on the mound for Seattle, and he retired the first two men he faced, Semien and La Stella.
Now, with pinch runner Nate Orf on second, again thanks to this season’s extra inning rule, the Green and Gold were exacctly where they wanted to be, down to their last out. Laureano brought Orf home by blasting an 0-1, 91 mph slider to deep left. With Laureano on second, Canha took a ball, swung and missed on a four seam fast ball, and then socked a 93 mph sinker over the fence in right center field.
Diekman, who now is 2-0, got the win and lowered his ERA to a mind boggling 0.44. Gerber suffered his first loss of the season, balancing his record at one win, one loss, and one save. His ERA squirted up to 4.30.
Tomorrow at 1:10, the teams will once more take the field, with Mike Minor (1-6, 5.92) performing mound duties for the A’s and Justus Sheffeld (4-3, 3.75) hurling for the M’s. That seven inning contest will be followed by another, in which they will make up the postponed game of September 3. Paul Blackburn will make his season debut for Oakland and Justin Dunn ((3-1, 4.20) will be on the mound for Seattle.
I’ll be there, bleary eyed and bushed.