I’ll tell you what, if the Oakland A’s are going to live up to their pre-season hype, they’ll have to throw and catch better than this. Two more Oakland errors in the seventh inning, by pitcher Brad Ziegler and first baseman Daric Barton, helped the Mariners score three more runs for a 6-2 lead.
The inning began with a Jack Cust walk, the sixth (!) by Seattle tonight. That was off Craig Breslow, who then yielded a double deep to the left-center gap by Justin Smoak to put two on. A Miguel Olivo chopper back to the mound was good enough to get the run home, and then Barton dropped the throw at first base to leave two on with none out.
Ziegler then tried a pickoff move at first base, only to see his throw go bounding down the right field line for a two-base throwing error and another run.
Ryan Langerhans then struck out. But Brendan Ryan hit a chopper that shortstop Cliff Pennington threw home with. It was a terrible throw, pulling catcher Kurt Suzuki away from the plate.
The run scored and Suzuki got his right leg crushed underneath him by baserunner Olivo on the play. It initially looked serious, but Suzuki stayed in the game.
So, a lousy job in middle relief by Breslow and then the poor pickoff by Ziegler. Hey, you’ve got to get guys on base to score and the M’s have certainly done that. Seven hits, six walks, four errors and a guy reaching on a fielder’s choice that gets nobody out. That’s a lot of baserunners. You usually win with 15 or more.
9:01 p.m.: It took them six innings, but the Mariners finally delivered some clutch hits in the sixth, starting when Ichiro grounded a ball through the left side to bring home Brendan Ryan from second with the tying run. Then, after Ichiro was picked off, none other than Chone Figgins, author of one home run all of last season, stepped up and drilled a ball over the fence in left field off reliever Craig Breslow to put Seattle ahead 3-2.
And what did Felix Hernandez do when given a lead? Retired the side in order. He’s at 77 pitches through six, finally leading by a run.
8:45 p.m.: Felix Hernandez certainly knows the drill, having found his groove with just a lone single allowed since the first inning. Hernandez retired the A’s 1-2-3 in the fifth inning — his pitch count still at just 69 — but trails 2-1 because the M’s keep stranding runners left and right.
Seattle has eight runners stranded the last three innings. Two more were left on base in the fifth after the Mariners did indeed chase Trevor Cahill before he could qualify for the victory. A two-out walk by Justin Smoak and a single to left by Miguel Olivo ended Cahill’s night after 105 pitches.
But southpaw Jerry Blevins came on and retired Ryan Langerhans with a big sweeping curve ball to end the inning. Nine runners total have been left on base by the Mariners already. And oh yeah, they’ve struck out nine — count ’em, nine — times in the first five innings. Ouch.
The good news? They’re getting on base. There, some positivity.
8:25 p.m.: The A’s won the battle that fourth inning, but in doing so, may have lost the war. A pair of consecutive errors by third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff prolonged the fourth, allowing the Mariners to load the bases with two out.
Chone Figgins then went down swinging at a 1-2 sinker to end the frame.
So, it’s still a 2-1 lead for Oakland, but the Mariners did some longer-term damage in that frame, riding Trevor Cahill’s pitch count up to 92 already.
Like I said earlier, Cahill won’t go more than five tonight. He might not even go more than four. We’ll see.
That’s what I mean by the M’s losing the battle, but maybe winning the war in that fourth. Kouzmanoff just made his pitcher throw a whole bunch of extras when he was already climbing too high in the count chart. It’s the first multi-error game of Kouzmanoff’s career.
Meanwhile, the M’s can’t keep stranding runners like this. That’s six in the last two innings.
8:00 p.m.: After two quick outs to start the third inning, the Mariners started getting all sorts of guys on base and came away with a run to cut Oakland’s lead to 2-1.
Ichiro singled off the glove of third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, then Chone Figgins singled to right field. Milton Bradley walked to load the bases and then Jack Cust drew another walk to force home the run.
The inning ended with the bases still loaded as Justin Smoak took a Trevor Cahill pitch right on that inside corner for a called third strike. Told you back in the first inning, the M’s can’t take pitches there because that’s where Gary Darling is calling them tonight.
Lots of runners stranded in scoring position by Seattle: three in three innings, to be exact. But they’re also doing a good job of running up Cahill’s pitch count. He won’t get much beyond the fifth inning at this rate.
7:43 p.m.: Still a 2-0 game, A’s leading after a pair of innings. The Mariners went 1-2-3 in their half of the second, with Justin Smoak grounding out unassisted to first base, Miguel Olivo failing to check his swing on a 1-2 pitch and then Ryan Langerhans grounding out to second on what wound up being a close play at first base.
Felix Hernandez settled down in the bottom of the frame, getting Kurt Suzuki on a flyball out to right field after falling behind 3-1 in the count. Mark Ellis grounded out to shortstop Brendan Ryan after that and then Kevin Kouzmanoff took a called third strike knee-high on the outside corner.
7:29 p.m.: Josh Willingham just showed why the A’s went out and got him this off-season, drilling a Felix Hernandez offering well beyond the wall in left center to open the scoring. The two-run blast makes it 2-0 for the A’s after a first inning in which Hernandez had trouble locating to the first batter he faced, Coco Crisp, then watched him line a 3-1 pitch into left field for a leadoff single.
Miguel Olivo then was forced to show he’s recovered from the groin injury, jumping out in front of the plate to corral a chopper by Daric Barton and throw him out at first.
That looked like it would be the key play of the inning because instead of two on with none out, Hernandez had his first out of the inning. He promptly got David DeJesus to ground out to second and appeared ready to escape. But after jumping ahead 0-1 on Willingham, he saw tables turned in a hurry.
Jack Wilson ended the frame with a nice play ranging to his right for a Hideki Matsui grounder. It was a long throw to make to first, but it helps when Matsui is the guy running.
7:20 p.m.: We’ve seen this movie a few times, haven’t we? Ichiro did a good job of drawing a leadoff walk against Trevor Cahill in the first inning after falling behind 0-2 in the count. But then, plate umpire Gary Darling began calling strikes on the inside corner, ringing up Chone Figgins and then Milton Bradley.
Ichiro had stolen second after Bradley jumped ahead 2-0 in the count. Jack Cust then grounded out, stranding Ichiro at second.
The M’s didn’t like the strikeout calls. But they’d best get used to not having that inside corner tonight.
6:56 p.m.: Getting set to launch another season of Mariners baseball. An unusual sight here tonight: an actual crowd in Oakland. Don’t get used to it.
The weather is absolutely beautiful, presently a comfortable 64 degrees. The nicest Opening Day I can remember. It was sunny and short-sleeves weather down on the field pre-game.
The Athletics enter the game as a trendy pick to win the AL West. We’ll see where that takes them. As the M’s have learned the past three years or so, it’s often much easier to win by sneaking up on people.
Trevor Cahill makes his first ever Opening Day start at age 23 years, 31 days.
3B Chone Figgins
LF Milton Bradley
DH Jack Cust
1B Justin Smoak
C Miguel Olivo
CF Ryan Langerhans
SS Brendan Ryan
2B Jack Wilson
RHP Felix Hernandez
CF Coco Crisp
1B Daric Barton
RF David DeJesus
LF Josh Willingham
DH Hideki Matsui
C Kurt Suzuki
2B Mark Ellis
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
SS Cliff Pennington
RHP Trevor Cahill