Baseball / Sports

Athletics fall to surging Mariners

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The hottest team in the American League West was on display at the Coliseum on Tuesday night. For a change, that team wasn't wearing green-and-gold uniforms.

No, folks, it's the Seattle Mariners who are making the most noise of late in the AL West, having won nine of their past 11 games after an 8-3 victory over the Athletics.

Seattle scored four times in the ninth inning against reliever Jim Johnson to break open a close game.

In the series opener Monday night, the Mariners handed Athletics left-hander Scott Kazmir his first loss of the season. On Tuesday, they saddled right-hander Jesse Chavez with his first loss in seven outings this season.

The Mariners' resurgence has come on the heels of an eight-game losing streak. Tuesday's victory marked their fourth straight. The A's lost for the fourth time in five games.

The Mariners came out swinging against Chavez, just as they did against Kazmir the previous night.

The Mariners scored twice against Kazmir in the first inning Monday. They tagged Chavez for three Tuesday.

James Jones and Robinson Cano started the early rally with back-to-back singles. Right fielder Craig Gentry prevented things from getting even worse by making a leaping catch in front of the wall on a drive by Corey Hart.

The Mariners scored on a wild pitch, a Justin Smoak double and a Dustin Ackley single before Chavez stopped the damage.

The A's cut the lead to 3-2 in the second on a Nick Punto two-run single up the middle. Brandon Moss kept alive the inning by beating out a grounder than Cano fielded in short right.

Chavez allowed one earned run or fewer in five of his first six starts this season. The Mariners surpassed that in the first inning, but Chavez settled into a groove for the next four innings.

During that time, he allowed only three base runners but not more than one in an inning.

However, the A's weren't able to get much going against Mariners rookie left-hander Roenis Elias other than the two-run burst in the second.

The Mariners finally broke through against Chavez a second time, in the sixth, with a little help from Chavez.

Chavez hit Kyle Seager in the foot with one out to start the rally. Ackley advanced Seager to third with a single, and Mike Zunino scored Seager with a fly ball.

Zunino's sacrifice fly also ended Chavez's night and removed him from contention for his third victory of the season.

Yoenis Cespedes got the A's back within a run of the Mariners with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the sixth.

The A's threatened in the seventh, when Punto walked with one out and Coco Crisp followed with a bunt single. Dominic Leone escaped the jam with back-to-back ground outs.

Mariners reliever Charlie Furbush struck out Brandon Moss on three pitches with runners on first and second to end the A's eighth.

-- Manager Bob Melvin remains undecided whether to use left-hander Drew Pomeranz or right-hander Arnold Leon as the starting pitcher for the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader against the Mariners.

Leon, 25, joined the A's on Tuesday from Triple-A Sacramento, and he is slated to be activated Wednesday, when the A's are permitted to have a 26th man on their roster for the nightcap.

Leon went 2-1 with a 4.34 ERA in six starts for Sacramento this season. Melvin doesn't need to know Leon's stats to know what Leon is capable of doing.

"We've seen his progression the last two springs," Melvin said, "and this spring he looked like he belonged more. He was more confident throwing to big-league hitters."

Melvin said he told Leon as much at the end of spring training in Arizona. He also told Leon that his time would come.

"I told him 'You put yourself in a position to be a viable option for us this year,'" Melvin said. "And here he is. Well deserved."

(c)2014 Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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