By John Hickey/East Bay Times
There’s something about Safeco Field that is bringing out the best in the Oakland A’s, 5-0 winners over the Seattle Mariners on Monday.
It doesn’t hurt that lefty Rich Hill has pitched twice here. The veteran pitched eight scoreless innings Monday after having limited the Mariners to one run in six innings back in an April 9 Safeco win.
Hill, 7-3, allowed eight hits but walked no one, his big curve setting up a darting fastball that was at its best when Seattle had runners on base. Hill was the first pitcher in the past 83 games – just over half a season – to throw more than seven innings in a start for Oakland.
The Mariners own the best record in the American League West at 26-18, but the A’s have owned them in their Seattle home. Oakland is now 4-0 against Seattle in the Pacific Northwest, but even with the win, the 20-26 A’s are seven games out in the West.
Hill was in a mess of trouble early, but the veteran has shown in the first two months of the season that he can deal with trouble, and he was most effective this time around.
After a double play got Hill out of a jam in the first, an infield single, a looper over the second baseman and a pop fly to left gave the Mariners a bases-loaded situation with no one out in the second. Hill showed poise, getting a strikeout of Chris Iannetta, getting Nori Aoki to hit a grounder to first, where Yonder Alonso threw a strike to the plate for a force, then struck out Chris Taylor.
Hill allowed two singles in the third, but they were sandwiched around a double play grounder to shortstop Marcus Semien, so the Mariners never really had much going. And it would be their last chance for a while. After Robinson Cano’s single in the third, Hill set down the next 14 men in order. If anything, Seattle starter Taijuan Walker was even more effective in the first six innings. After Coco Crisp opened the game with a single, the right-handed Walker put away 16 Oakland batters consecutively before Jake Smolinski singled with one out in the sixth.
The game was sitting in a scoreless deadlock until Stephen Vogt led off the seventh. Walker is an impressive young pitcher with an above-average fastball, but after falling behind Vogt 3-1, Walker just tried to throw a strike. His fastball wasn’t up to par, and Vogt clubbed it out over the right field wall, his fourth homer and his first since April 28.
Walker didn’t know it at the time, but he was just about done, hurt as much by the defense of shortstop Chris Taylor as the A’s offense, although Oakland’s lumber finally made its presence known in the eighth.
A two-base throwing error by Young and a one-out RBI single by Smolinski made it 2-0, and when the Mariners had a chance to get out of the inning with a double play, Young muffed the grounder, leaving men at second and third. Walker walked Billy Burns intentionally to load the bases before lefty reliever Vidal Nuno hit Vogt with a pitch, giving the A’s a 3-0 lead.
That led to the call for Joel Peralta to come out of the Seattle pen, and Danny Valencia hit Peralta’s first pitch for a two-run double and a 5-0 lead.
The A’s will go with rookie Zach Neal to start today’s series finale against the Mariners in place of the disabled Sonny Gray. Neal, who pitched one inning of relief in Boston on May 11, has earned a promotion with a 5-1 record and 2.53 ERA for Triple-A Nashville. “We were impressed with what we saw, and he’s been pitching well,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Boston can be a place that can be tough for your Major League debut. He gave us three innings, he was aggressive and I liked the movement on his fastball.”
Gray, who went on the disabled list Sunday with a strained right trapezius, is likely to be out a little longer than 15 days. “To get him actually back into a start mode in 15 days might be tough,” the manager said. It was Gray who was the last pitcher to throw more than seven innings in a start, doing it on Aug. 22, 2015.
The fracture of Josh Reddick’s left thumb is at the tip of the thumb and not in the joint, so the expectation is that Reddick will need closer to four weeks to heal than the six it would be if the joint had been injured.
Pittsburgh 6 Colorado 3
Chicago White Sox 7 Cleveland 6
NY Mets 7 Washington 1
Detroit 5 Philadelphia 4
Miami 7 Tampa Bay 6
LA Angels 2 Texas 0
Cleveland 5 Chicago White Sox 1
Kansas City 10 Minnesota 4
St. Louis 4 Chicago Cubs 3
LA Dodgers 1 Cincinnati 0
Oakland 5 Seattle 0
San Francisco 1 San Diego 0
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