A's can't contain Mariners in loss
Bullpen surrenders late lead; Cust, Ellis leave game
SEATTLE -- Just 24 hours after the Athletics bullpen helped claim a 2-0 win, the same unit came up well short of the necessary encore performance on Friday night against the Mariners.Oakland fought off several in-game injuries and came back from a three-run deficit to take the lead, but timely Seattle hits in the sixth and seventh innings gave it a 7-5 win in front of 26,603 at Safeco Field. Reliever Jerry Blevins took over in the bottom of the sixth inning, following an Oakland four-spot in the top half that had produced a 5-4 lead. But a single and a double with one out set up a run-scoring groundout to tie the game at 5. Blevins then gave up a leadoff double to Adrian Beltre in the seventh and an RBI ground-ball single up the middle to Jose Lopez with one out to break the tie. He was chased one out later by a ringing RBI double off the bat of Jeff Clement to left-center that would provide Seattle with the winning margin. "He had a couple balls that were hit today, the big one he had two strikes on Lopez, and he threw the ball really in the dirt -- the same pitch that he swung at in the dirt -- and I really don't know how he hit that ball," manager Bob Geren said. "It almost looked like it bounced. ... It was a good pitch. The pitch, the double to Clement was not exactly where he wanted it." The game started off on a bizarre note, with second baseman Mark Ellis leaving the game after the first inning and left fielder Jack Cust departing after the second. Ellis, whose right shoulder was badly hurt during Spring Training in 2004, said he that couldn't get the shoulder loose after he was involved in a baserunning collision in the third inning of Thursday's game while trying to break up a double play at second base. Geren said that he is day-to-day, and Ellis said that he saw a doctor and did well on the strength tests. He also said he was encouraged because his shoulder, which had been a little sore recently, had been feeling better up until the Thursday collision. "Sometimes, it just takes a little while to get loose, and it wasn't really loose during batting practice, and certainly it didn't feel real good in my first at-bat," he said. "And then as I'm making my throws in between innings, [I realized] that I wouldn't be able to make a play up the middle or even turn a double play, so that's when I began to realize I should probably let somebody else go up there." Cust left because of blurred vision in one of his eyes, and Geren said that he will see an optometrist if it doesn't get better when he wakes up Saturday morning. Rajai Davis was notified of the situation before the game and knew he might be getting some action. The bright side for Oakland came with rookie starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who was coming off a rough outing against the White Sox on Sunday in which he gave up seven earned runs. The left-hander looked sharp and strong in the first three innings of Friday's game, but he ran into problems in the bottom of the fourth after Davis had given him a 1-0 lead with a homer in the top of the inning. First Gonzalez gave up two straight hits to start the inning -- the second being a run-scoring double by Lopez. A throwing error by Eric Patterson -- Ellis' replacement -- put the next hitter on base, and Clement then roped a double off the left-center field wall to score two more runs. A sacrifice bunt and a squeeze bunt -- which Gonzalez said surprised him -- got Clement home and put the Athletics in a 4-1 hole. But after allowing a double and a walk to lead off the fifth, Gonzalez buckled down and escaped without giving up a run, thanks to a couple of key strikeouts. "It was a big bounce-back for me coming from the White Sox game where I was a little out of whack, and going into this game, [I was] more in control, more in the zone than before," Gonzalez said. "So I can take this as a positive more than a negative." And that effort was rewarded, when his team tacked on a four-spot of its own in the sixth to get him off the hook. The first two batters were hit by pitches from Seattle reliever Sean Green, and Davis loaded the bases with a single to right. A fielder's choice drove in a run, and then consecutive bloop singles from Daric Barton and Cliff Pennington gave the Athletics three more runs and the 5-4 advantage. In his fill-in appearance for Cust, Davis went 3-for-3 with the homer. "He's been working real hard, he's always working extra on his hitting, his fielding, had a chance to get in there tonight and he really helped contribute," Geren said. "He's swinging the bat good."
Jesse Baumgartner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.