Game of inches goes against the A’s early in loss to Mariners

A's third baseman Josh Donaldson dives in vain for a line drive off the bat of Seattle Mariners' Michael Saunders. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson dives in vain for a line drive off the bat of Seattle Mariners’ Michael Saunders. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

The whole “baseball is a game of inches” is about as old a cliché as there is in baseball. There’s probably a good reason why.

In a matter of four batters on Monday night at the Coliseum, there were three plays that were decided by a few inches that dramatically altered the game. Michael Saunders led off with a sharp liner that deflected off the glove of third baseman Josh Donaldson. Then Stefen Romero singled on a grounder that went off the glove of pitcher Scott Kazmir.

Two batters later, Corey Hart delivered a seeing-eyed single and the Mariners had a 1-0 lead. A second run scored on an RBI groundout, Seattle was up 2-0 early and those two runs were the difference in a 4-2 win.

Those first two batters could’ve almost just as easily recorded outs and the game may have been completely different. Sure, the A’s later tied the game up, so those runs weren’t the game-winners. That came when Romero crushed his first major league home run. The Mariners added insurance on a single that Brandon Moss lost in the lights.

But the early 2-0 set the A’s back and prevented Kazmir the opportunity to ever pitch with a lead. He wasn’t his sharpest in suffering his first loss with the A’s. Both manager Bob Melvin and catcher John Jaso noted a loss in velocity. And all parties credited Kazmir for battling despite not being at his best. With a double-header coming up on Wednesday, every inning the bullpen doesn’t have to pitch is a bonus.

The A’s also struggled to solve Mariners’ right-hander Chris Young, who has always been a baffling pitcher of sorts. At 6-foot-10, hitters expect so much more velocity out of him. But he chucks it up there just in the mid-80s.

“He’s an acquired taste,” Melvin said of Young. “He’s unique in what he does. You look at the gun and it’s 85 mph and he’s throwing balls by you.”

Moss, who accounted for all of Oakland’s scoring with a two-run homer, said it’s that height of Young that is part of what makes him tough.

“He’s 6-foot-10 and he’s throwing out of the sky,” Moss said. “The pitch up looks soft and looks good to hit, but you see what we do with it, we foul it off all the time. And then when he goes down, it looks like it’s so far down that you can’t hit it, but it stays at the knees. He’s a tough guy to hit, he really is. He’s a tough guy to square up.”


Jimmy Durkin

Jimmy Durkin is a sports writer for the Bay Area News Group.