Hisashi Iwakuma and Bartolo Colon were the top two pitchers in terms of career ERA at Safeco Field, and on this night, in Oakland’s 6-3 win that dropped the Mariners a season-high 11 games under .500, Colon got the better of it.
You can joke about his physique and wonder about any artificial help he might have received in the past, but Colon is a master out there. Eric Wedge said Colon’s fastball movement and command is as good as any pitcher in baseball. Bob Melvin called it “kind of a typical Bartolo game” — eight innings, seven hits, all three runs coming on Nick Franklin’s homer.
“The shocker is when he gives up a homer like that,” Melvin said. “But you have to give him (Franklin) credit. He put a good swing on it and hit it a ways. I mean, the ball went back a little ways.”
Colon had struck out Franklin on three pitches in the first inning, making him look bad in the process.
“He plain beat me,’’ Franklin said. “I don’t think I was ready for it. The next at-bat, I wasn’t going to let anything get by me.”
That kind of attitude, and execution, has made Franklin one of the few Mariner bright spots these days.
“He’s been doing great,’’ Wedge said. “He’s up there ready to hunt the baseball, but takes the walks when they don’t come to him. He’s playing aggressively at second base. He’s playing with no fear. I love that.”
The Mariners didn’t help themselves on the basepaths in this one. Kyle Seager led off the sixth with a single, but was thrown out at third trying to advance two bases on a passed ball by Oakland catcher Derek Norris. Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez followed with singles, but Colon worked out of it.
“Once he slowed down and kind of stuttered around second base, you’ve got to shut her down,’’ Wedge said. “If he just keeps going, maybe it’s a different story.”
Then in the seventh, Michael Saunders led off with a beautiful bunt single but was promptly picked off first base by Colon.
“Michael’s trying to steal a bag right there,’’ Wedge said. “He just broke a tad early. That’s probably a fraction of a second from being dead-on where he steals that bag, very similar to what Brendan Ryan did earlier in the game.”
Yoenis Cespedes did the bulk of the damage for Oakland with a pair of two-run homers, bookended in the first and ninth (the latter off still-struggling Tom Wilhelmsen). He now has 10 homers in 30 career games against the Mariners.
Cespedes had been limited to designated hitting duties for the past week because of hamstring tightness, but returned to left field for this one.
“Evidently, he likes to play the outfield,’’ Melvin said. “You could see his whole demeanor today – he was just in a better mood. Batting practice, hitting fungoes, and taking ground balls at short. He likes playing the full game.”
The Mariners, on the other hand, have found it hard to play a complete game. Tonight it was Iwakuma giving up three homers, and Wilhelmsen giving the A’s some breathing room in the ninth. Speaking of Wilhelmsen’s ongoing struggles, Wedge said, “It’s definitely command, not control. He’s on the plate, but he’s not on the plate down, hitting the glove, like he is when he’s at his best. He just has to stay on top of the baseball. Sometimes you get off to the side a little bit, and when you rip it to home plate, it doesn’t end up where you need it to be. That’s what happened with Cespedes tonight.”