By Morris Phillips
For the Mariners, Friday’s celebratory release has ended. On Sunday, the A’s pre-empted the hosts’ post-season party and staged one of their own.
Shea Langeliers, Cristian Pache and Nick Allen homered off Seattle starter Robbie Ray and the A’s built a 10-0 lead on the way to a 10-3 win at T-Mobile Park.
The A’s interrupted a six-game losing skid with the win, and moved closer to insuring that the Washington Nationals will finish with the Majors’ worst won-loss record, not Oakland.
The Mariners lost ground to the Blue Jays with the loss in their race to determine the host of their likely, three-game Wild Card series beginning on Friday. The Jays beat Boston on Sunday and can insure that they’ll host the series with any combination of Toronto wins and Seattle losses that adds up to two.
Manager Scott Servais characterized his club’s low-energy performance Sunday while likely attempting to calculate how fiercely they should approach their final four games against the Tigers, which are shoe-horned into a three-day span.
“There’s been a lot of emotion around our team here in the last four or five days and I think you saw a little bit of the wind out of our sails today,” Servais said.
With the new-playoff format, the Mariners could go from the high of ending their unprecedented 21-year post-season drought to the reality that the renewed love affair between themselves and their fans could end Wednesday. The visitor in the opening series faces the reality that they could be eliminated without hosting any playoff games.
“We’re at the point where you almost got to win out,” Servais noted.
The A’s took control on two fronts Sunday. James Kaprelian pitched no-hit baseball into the sixth inning before allowing a single to Ty France. At that point, the A’s led 6-0. Kaprelian walked two, struck out seven and departed after retiring Eugenio Suarez to end the sixth. His win-loss record (5-9) may not reflect it, but Kaprelian’s growth as a starter is apparent.
After a two-week pause beginning August 31, Kaprelian has made four starts and equaled or surpassed his innings pitched and the pitch count reached in his initial 23 starts of the season. Translated, he’s establishing himself as someone the A’s can count on to get deep in games going forward.
“It was a good finish for James in terms of his bounce back from some struggles in the middle of the season to ending this month and really performing well,” manager Mark Kotsay said.
Conversely, Ray left too many pitches in the strike zone and the A’s didn’t miss them. His three home runs allowed tied a season-high, and he walked three batters in the second inning as a precursor to falling into serious trouble in the fourth and fifth.
“This is one that just, flush it and move on. I’m not going to let it take away from what I’ve been able to do this year,” Ray said.
Ernie Clement, in just his third start for the A’s, and Allen both came up with terrific defensive plays, throwing runners out after cat-quick diving stops. Langeliers homered in the fourth, and again in the ninth, a three-run shot off Penn Murfee.
The A’s conclude the season at the Coliseum against Anaheim. Adrian Martinez gets the start in Monday’s opener opposite Patrick Sandoval for the Angels.