OAKLAND, Calif.—A day earlier, Lloyd McClendon predicted his Seattle Mariners were due to play some 2-1 and 1-0 games. They weren’t going to steamroll every team. That premonition came to fruition on a chilly Thursday night at a largely unfilled O.co Coliseum against the defending American League West champion Oakland A’s.
Only the Mariners were on the losing end of the close game.
Reliever Hector Noesi gave up a walk-off homer to Coco Crisp on his second pitch of the bottom of the 12th inning as the Mariners lost 3-2 to the A’s.
While the game was decided on that regrettable pitch, there were many reasons for the loss, including a scarcity of runs after the fifth inning.
The A’s simply have a better bullpen than the Angels, which is not the highest compliment received. Still, the Mariners turned semi-close games against the Angels into routs, piling up 13 hits, including five homers, drawing seven walks and pounding out 12 runs against Los Angeles relievers.
But those runs never came in the late innings against the A’s, instead the Mariners had to settle for the two runs they scored in the first five innings off Oakland starter Jesse Chavez, and they never scored again. A’s relievers held the Mariners to one hit and allowed one walk and struck out five over the final seven innings.
It overshadowed the major-league debut of young left-hander Roenis Elias, who looked like a pitcher making his debut early on. The 25-year-old Cuban 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 got more comfortable.
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 intact. 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. 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 Robinson 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.
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 Coco Crisp to start the 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 Jasso before getting pinch-hitter Brandon Moss to ground out to end the inning.
The Mariners jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Abraham Almonte’s hard ground ball bounced through the legs of first baseman Alberto Callaspo. Almonte made a hard turn around first base and goaded a throw from second baseman Punto, who hoped to get him at first. Instead his throw bounced away from Callaspo, allowing Almonte to hustle to second. The Mariners went into manufacture mode. Brad Miller hit a deep fly to center field that allowed Almonte to tag up and advance to third. Robinson Cano then scored Almonte with a simple ground ball to second base to put the Mariners on the board.