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April 4, 2014 at 12:29 AM

A’s 3, Mariners 2 in 12 innings – the first loss of the season

So that was fun. Yes, that’s sarcasm.  The Mariners suffered their first loss of the season, losing in extra innings.

“The fact is, we didn’t execute on several fronts and we walked too many guys,” manager Lloyd McClendon said.

Reliever Hector Noesi gave up a walk-off homer to Coco Crisp in his second pitch of the bottom of the 12th inning.

It was a frustrating loss, but McClendon wasn’t overturning chairs or tables. Like all managers, he knows it’s a long season. He expects his players to move on quickly, win or lose.

“You turn the page and get ready for the next one,” he said. “Over the course of a 162 game schedule, you are going to lose some you should have won and win some you should have lost. You turn the page. Learn from it. Forget about it and move on.”

The 0-1 fastball that Crisp hit out off of Noesis missed the location catcher Mike Zunino set up for.

“It was just a little up,” Zunino said.

The fact that Noesi was in the game is a contentious point for some fans. The fact that Noesi is on the team might be even a more contentious point for those same fans.

The Mariners were down to two pitchers – Noesi and Fernando Rodney. So at some point Noesi was coming in because the Mariners weren’t scoring runs against the A’s bullpen.

Four A’s relievers combined to pitch six shutout innings and hold the Mariners to  just one hit while walking one and striking out five. In the first three wins, the Mariners beat up on the Angels’ awful bullpen, turning semi-close games against the Angels into routs. In three games, they banged out 13 hits, including five homers, drawing seven walks and scoring 12 runs. That wasn’t happening on Thursday. 

The  Mariners had  to settle for the two runs they scored in the first five innings off of Oakland starter Jesse Chavez, and the never scored again.

It overshadowed the major league debut of young left-hander Roenis Elias, who looked like a pitcher making his big league debut early on. The 25-year-old Cuban native needed 26 pitches to get out of the first inning, going full count on all four hitters he faced. But slowly he settled down. With each inning pitched, he seemed to get more comfortable.

“I just tried to stay calm and I was anxious to get the first inning out of the way,” Elias said through translator Fernando Alcala.

Elias still hadn’t allowed a hit with two outs in the fifth inning, and appeared to head to the sixth inning with a no-hitter in-tact. However, his perfect 2-2 curveball to Nick Punto was called a ball by home plate umpire Sean Barber much to the amazement of Elias and catcher Mike Zunino, who were heading toward the visiting dugout. Even Punto had turned and started heading for the A’s dugout, thinking he was out. It was called a ball and on the ensuing 3-2 pitch, Punto spanked a single into left field.

Elias was clearly miffed. Robinson Cano tried to calm him down, but it didn’t matter. Elias left a pitch up to the next hitter – Sam Fuld, who hammered a line drive into center field. Center fielder Abraham Almonte made an awkward half-slide, half-dive attempt to catch the liner and it got by him, rolling all the way to the wall. Right fielder Logan Morrison hustled over from his position and picked up the ball, firing it to the cutoff man  Cano.  Standing about 30 feet from the infield dirt, Cano wheeled and fired a perfect strike to Zunino to get Fuld at home and keep him from the inside-the-park home run.

“I sincerely thought it was a strike, but the umpire didn’t call it,” Elias said of the Punto pitch. “If I wouldn’t have gotten that call, I would have gotten out of that frame without giving up a run.”

McClendon wouldn’t say what he thought of Barber on the record. He didn’t want to be fined. But it’s clear he was unhappy. Barber is a Triple A umpire, who is on the list of replacement umpires. He made his MLB debut the other day. With many veteran umpires helping to run the replay system in New York, there are replacements umps on some crews.

When asked about the curveball to Punto, Zunino just shook his head and said, “Oh man.” He wouldn’t say anymore because he knew it wouldn’t be good.

Zunino did talk about his conversations with Barber. He was clearly upset after a walk late in the game with Danny Farquhar on the mound. He even said a few things and turned back to look at Barber as he was walking to the mound. 

“I’m have to protect my pitchers,” he said. “There were some pitches that I thought were strikes and he didn’t.”

For some reason, Barber decided to review his own call at home – checking to see if Zunino had violated the new home plate slide rules –  after a brief discussion with A’s manager Bob Melvin. After about an eight minute delay, Barber’s review of his own call was upheld. It kept the Mariners lead at 2-1.

That inning ended Elias’ day. He pitched five innings in his debut, giving up one run on two hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

But the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead. Charlie Furbush walked Crisp to start the eighth inning. McClendon called on Tom Wilhelmsen to stop the bleeding. He couldn’t. Wilhelmsen walked Josh Donaldson and got some help when Jed Lowrie grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. But Wilhelmsen couldn’t end the inning. Yoenis Cespedes jumped on a fastball and drilled it into right-center for a triple, knotting the game at 2-2. Wilhelmsen then walked pinch hitter John Jaso before getting pinch hitter Brandon Moss to ground out to end the inning.

As I said in the game blog, McClendon made it clear that he was using Wilhelmsen and Furbush as his predominant set-up guys to Fernando Rodney. It’s why he went to Wilhelmsen instead of Farquhar in that situation. McClendon has all the reports and watched tape on Wilhelmsen, but he doesn’t have quite the skepticism or angst that Mariners fans do. It’s also easy to get seduced by Wilhelmsen’s raw stuff. Farquhar, while not giving up any runs, wasn’t particularly sharp. Medina, Furbush, Wilhelmsen and Farquhar combined for seven walks. Of course, Barber had something to do with that as well.

As for Noesi, the Mariners have some long relief options. There’s Zach Miner and I guess you could use Blake Beavan or even Lucas Luetge. But the Mariners will likely keep Beavan stretched out as a starter until Walker or Iwakuma come back for insurance purposes. I would guess Noesi has about one more sub-par outing left before he loses his spot on the team.



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