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July 13, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Oakland’s Sonny Gray shuts down Mariners to salvage series finale for A’s

Oakland Athletics' Jed Lowrie, left, scores as Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino waits for the ball in the fifth inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Oakland Athletics’ Jed Lowrie, left, scores as Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino waits for the ball in the fifth inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Mariners had a chance Sunday afternoon to end a surprisingly successful first half of the season with another surprising result.

Instead, Oakland’s Sonny Gray quieted the Mariners’ bats, and the Athletics escaped Safeco Field with a 4-1 victory to enter the all-star break with the best record in the major leagues.

After impressive victories on Friday and Saturday, the Mariners (51-44) couldn’t complete a series sweep, but the Mariners showed they should have the staying power to hang with the A’s and Angels in the mighty AL West in the second half of the season.

“It was a good series for us, there’s no question about that,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Picked up a game in the standings. Our guys finished the first half pretty strong, so I was very pleased with that. But it’s over with now. Rest for four days and get ready for Anaheim (on Friday).”

Oakland (59-36) enters the all-star break with an eight-game lead over the Mariners in the AL West, with the second-place Angels (57-37) playing as well as anyone in baseball lately.

Gray (10-3) allowed only an unearned run in the first inning, scattering six hits in 7.2 innings to pick up the win.

“That’s a good team over there; the best team in baseball, and they played like it today. My hat’s off to them,” McClendon said.

The Mariners, already leading 1-0, had a chance to add to their lead in the fourth inning with runners on first and third and no outs. Gray got out of it by getting Logan Morrison to hit into a 1-6 fielder’s choice; Justin Smoak popped out to third; and Dustin Ackley struck out.

“That came back to bite us,” McClendon said.

Mariners starter Chris Young (8-6) gave up three runs on five hits in six innings. He said he felt like his only mistake of the day was an inside pitch to Brandon Moss, who hit a towering solo homer to right field in the sixth inning. The A’s had taken the lead with two runs in the fifth with two outs.

“They scratched out a couple runs,” Young said. “They had some good at-bats. I felt like the only real bad pitch was the one to Moss that he hit out in the sixth. Lowrie hit a good pitch the other way (for a double in the fifth); it’s good hitting. They’re a good club. There’s a reason they have the best record in baseball. You give them credit. Sonny Gray was outstanding today and we just came up short.”

Overall, the Mariners take a positive vibe into the break after a surprisingly solid first half.

“We’ve played good baseball,” Young said. “I still think our best baseball’s ahead of us. There’s room for improvement. We can all get a little bit better, and if we do so I feel like we’ll be where we want to be at the end of the season. I think we’re pleased with where we are, but we’re not satisfied and we’ll keep working. Hopefully the second half will be better than the first.”

Added Robinson Cano: “We feel good. We should feel proud of ourselves with this first half.”

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