OAKLAND – For all that went wrong for the Oakland A’s on Thursday night, the only tonic was stashing one away in the win column.
They managed that when Coco Crisp led off the bottom of the 12th with a walkoff homer to send the A’s to a 3-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners in the opener of a four-game series.
The A’s managed just six hits. They staged a defensive comedy act in the first inning. They stranded 10 runners and couldn’t take advantage of 10 walks issued by Mariners pitchers. But in the end, they walked away happy, and in the process they handed Seattle its first loss after three consecutive victories.
Crisp turned on an 0-1 pitch from Hector Noesi and hit it over the right field wall, but even that climactic ending was put on hold for a few minutes. Umpires went to instant replay review to judge whether Crisp’s ball actually cleared the wall. They quickly came back with confirmation that it was indeed a homer.
That ended the 4-hour, 2-minute contest, and it was a fitting conclusion on a night where the most interesting play through the first 11 innings came on a replay review.
Oakland’s lone sign of life offensively in the early going came courtesy of Sam Fuld. He hit a liner that skipped past center fielder Abraham Almonte and rolled to the fence. Nick Punto scored on the play and Fuld burned around the bases, going for an inside-the-park home run. The relay throw from Seattle’s Robinson Cano beat him and he was out on a not-so-close play. But the umpires requested an instant replay review to inquire if catcher Mike Zunino was illegally blocking the plate. Only problem was the phone line wasn’t working for the umpires on the field, so they retreated to the clubhouse and returned with a ruling that there was no infraction.
The scene took three-and-a-half minutes to play out, another sign that replay seems destined to bog down the pace of play all season. But Fuld’s mad dash sent a charge through the home crowd, which didn’t have much to cheer before then.
Starting pitching report
Jesse Chavez, the longtime reliever making his first start of 2014, turned in a solid six innings, scattering five hits. The Mariners scored a first-inning run thanks to two A’s errors on the same play. The only other run off Chavez came on Abraham Almonte’s RBI single up the middle in the fifth. He struck out four and walked two – the kind of efficient, steady outing the A’s expected from Chavez based on his excellent spring.
Fernando Abad shined in two scoreless innings, striking out three. Then Sean Doolittle followed with two shutout innings of his own that kept the game tied 2-2. Luke Gregerson and Drew Pomeranz also delivered shutout innings.
At the plate
The A’s made life entirely too comfortable for Mariners lefty Roenis Elias, who was making his major league debut. Elias walked three in the first two innings but the A’s couldn’t rattle him – or translate his wildness into early offense. They managed just six hits for the entire game. But Yoenis Cespedes came up big in the eighth. With two outs and a runner on third, he jumped on Tom Wilhelmsen’s first pitch and scorched a low liner that rolled all the way to the wall in right-center for a game-tying triple. The A’s experienced some bad luck too, as Josh Reddick lined two balls right at outfielders. Josh Donaldson lined into a double play with Coco Crisp trying to steal in the first. Almonte robbed Norris with a pretty running catch in right-center. But bottom line, the A’s don’t have their bats cranking consistently yet.
In the field
Alberto Callaspo’s first career game at first base couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start. Abraham Almonte led off the game with a ground ball that squirted right through Callaspo’s legs for an error. Compounding things, second baseman Nick Punto retrieved the ball and hit Almonte with his throw to first – two errors on one play. That set up a run off Chavez and a 1-0 Seattle lead. Callaspo made the other routine plays, successfully finishing a bizarre 4-3-2 double play when two Mariners runners somehow wound up at third base at the same time. Fuld, drawing a start in left field with Yoenis Cespedes at DH, made a terrific sliding catch of Logan Morrison’s low liner in the sixth that saved a run.
The announced crowd was 11,236. Early April …. weeknight … Mariners in town … you get the picture.
Dan Straily (10-8, 3.96 last year) looks to build on a strong rookie season as he opposes Seattle right-hander Chris Young (4-9, 4.15) in Friday’s 7:05 p.m. contest.