OAKLAND, Calif. – Mike Zunino hovered around the third-base bag, waiting to take off for home if the line drive to right field fell in.
But a shoestring catch by Josh Reddick of the Kyle Seager scorcher spelled the beginning of the end for the Mariners at a point Sunday when they had everything going their way. Zunino was forced to hold his ground after the bases-loaded snare and the Mariners eventually collapsed in steady fashion for a 10-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
The Mariners came in looking for a badly needed first series sweep this season as they try to make up the ample ground between them and a .500 record. But even after taking an early lead against A’s starter Bartolo Colon with red-hot Hisashi Iwakuma on the mound, they simply could not get it done.
“I think he just got stronger throughout the game,” said Zunino, who had one of five Mariners hits off Colon in the second inning. “He was working the bottom of the zone expanding, trying to do what he likes to do. He threw a lot of strikes, got a lot of outs and a lot of ground balls.”
As if this stinker of a finale wasn’t bad enough, the Mariners had to contend postgame with raw sewage that flooded both clubhouses and the umpire’s dressing room. Players were sent scrambling through the stadium corridors — some wrapped only in towels and wearing flip-flops — and upstairs to the Oakland Raiders football locker room to take postgame showers ahead of their flight to Anaheim, Calif.
The Mariners had Colon on the ropes in that second inning, up 2-0 with the bases loaded and only one out. But Colon escaped that jam with help from the caught Seager liner and allowed just one more base runner the rest of his seven-inning stint — a bloop single in the sixth — in retiring 16 of his final 17 batters.
Oakland would later score two in the fourth off Iwakuma and two more in the fifth to take the lead. Josh Donaldson, Seth Smith, Brandon Moss and Reddick would later add solo homers off Seattle’s bullpen in the seventh and eighth to salvage the series finale in front of 36,067 at the Coliseum.
Zunino said he never really thought about tagging up from third and testing right fielder Reddick’s cannon arm in that second inning. The Mariners had already lost out on a scoring opportunity in the first when Endy Chavez opted not to test Reddick by going first to third on a single to right.
Chavez would have scored on an ensuing fly out to center by Kendrys Morales had he been standing on third. And while Chavez would later drive in the game’s first two runs with a single in the second, the Mariners needed far more scoring on a rare day Iwakuma could not hold the lead.
“I think it was one of those things where we just missed our spot,” catcher Zunino said of Iwakuma, who took his first loss since April 23 in just a five-inning effort. “We attacked a little bit too high in the zone. I think we just need to do a better job of working down a little bit lower in the strike zone.”
Iwakuma had allowed runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings without any runs scoring. But doubles by Donaldson and Smith to start the fourth got Oakland on the board and a Reddick single — his second of four hits on the day — tied things up.
A walk to John Jaso in the fifth and then a double by Yoenis Cespedes gave Oakland the lead. Moss then hit a single to score Cespedes and make it 4-2.
“It was a big game,” Iwakuma said, through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “And FiFi (Felix Hernandez) pitched a great game yesterday so I wanted to come up with a big win today for the sweep. But unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
Mariners manager Eric Wedge spoke pregame about how important a sweep would be for a squad back at eight games under .500.
Instead of closing to six games from .500, the Mariners are right back to where they were near the beginning of last week. Even before the A’s tacked on two homers off Blake Beavan in the seventh and two more off Carter Capps in the eighth, the game still felt over at 4-2 because of Seattle’s inability to generate offense.
“We still were in the ballgame,” Wedge said. “We just needed to come back — especially when they (Oakland) scored that second set of runs — and answer to it. We just couldn’t.”
Instead, the Mariners will keep looking for answers in Anaheim this week and had better hope they find some quick.