SEATTLE_The Oakland A's got an early two-run jump on Felix Hernandez, but when it turned out Oakland needed a little bit more, there was no more to get in a 3-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Friday.
Seattle, desperate to stay in the American League West race, saw its ace shrug off a surprisingly poor first inning_he'd only allowed three first-inning runs all season_to allow just three more hits and two walks through eight innings before closer Fernando Rodney took over.
Given their season-long flair for the dramatic, it was no surprise the A's tried to stage a rally at that point. Oakland got Derek Norris to second base on a one-out walk and Rodney's wild pitch.
That brought up pinch-hitter Yoenis Cespedes, who has four of his 14 homers against the Mariners. He lined out to right, Norris taking third and bringing up Nick Punto. Rodney got ahead in the count 0-2, but Punto worked the count full, then was called out on a strike that was about shoulder high.
Punto, furious, slammed his helmet on the ground and was ejected by home plate umpire James Hoye from a game that was already over. Manager Bob Melvin came out of the dugout to express his displeasure, too.
Jeff Samardzija, getting his second start for the A's after being picked up a week ago from the Chicago Cubs, allowed only five hits. Four were for extra bases, however, and that proved to be enough to get Seattle the offensive nudge it needed.
The Mariners' win pulled them to within eight games of Oakland in the West, but the A's lead over the second-place Angels is down to 2 1/2 games, the smallest since they were 2 1/2 up after a loss to the Angels on June 10.
Samardzija went on to throw a complete game, the fourth of his career, but back-to-back two-out doubles by James Jones and Robinson Cano in the sixth inning proved decisive in his 98-pitch night.
To that point, Samardzija had allowed just three hits in the first five innings, but with two of them going for extra bases, he was locked in a 2-2 tie with Hernandez.
Hernandez had dominated the A's as much as any pitcher in the game in recent years to the point where Seattle had won 21 of the last 28 Hernandez starts against Oakland since 2007. The A's seemed to break through against Hernandez the last time they saw him in May, getting 11 hits and four runs in 6 1/3 innings, although Oakland would lose the game, 6-4. That surge carried into the first inning Friday when Stephen Vogt homered and Jed Lowrie delivered an RBI single, the third A's hit in the inning.
Half of the 2-0 lead the A's gave Samardzija was gone in the second inning when Logan Morrison jumped on a full-count pitch and hammered it out for his fifth homer. An inning later, Brad Miller's double, a grounder and a medium-deep sacrifice fly by Endy Chavez tied the game at 2.
_The A's lost infielder Alberto Callaspo to a right hamstring train in the second inning. Callaspo grounded to short, a ball hit slowly enough that he had a chance to beat it out for a single. Instead, he pulled up about three strides before reaching first base, then slowly walked off the field. He was replaced at first base by Nate Freiman to start the bottom of the second.
_Center fielder Coco Crisp missed a second consecutive start Friday, as he continues to battle his on-again, off-again neck pain. Crisp had started five of the previous six games off before sitting out Thursday's game in San Francisco. "He's struggling here with the neck again," Melvin said. "It's a day-to-day proposition."
_The A's, faced with the likelihood of losing Jeff Francis to a waiver claim, traded the left-handed pitcher to the New York Yankees, packaging an undisclosed amount of cash with him, with Oakland due to get a player to be named later in return.
"We're always trying to have that depth," Melvin said. "New York has had some injuries, and it made some sense that they went after him. We wish him the best. He didn't pitch a lot here, but you go back to that game that he saved in Miami, and that was terrific. He made an impact in the short period of time he was here."