Athletics 6, Mariners 3

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—While the Oakland Athletics finally got on a roll, the Seattle Mariners resorted to desperate postgame measures to slow their downhill slide.

Frank Thomas and Bobby Crosby hit two-run singles and the A’s tuned up for Barry Bonds’ arrival by finishing a three-game sweep with a 6-3 victory Thursday—a loss that prompted an hourlong team meeting for the concerned Mariners.

The first Bay Bridge Series of the season begins on Friday night with Bonds and the San Francisco Giants visiting the Coliseum for three games. Bonds has been stuck on 713 homers since May 7 in his quest to surpass Babe Ruth’s career total.

But the A’s are headed into the series with the momentum of their second-longest winning streak of the season, which has kept them in a first-place tie with Texas in the AL West. Oakland has won six straight against Seattle after opening the season series with a loss.

“We’re playing the game the right way, and wins start to come,” Kirk Saarloos said. “We’re starting to score more runs, and as a pitcher, you don’t feel like you have to be perfect.”

Saarloos allowed eight hits but just one earned run while pitching into the seventh inning for the A’s, who had another outing of cool efficiency for their fourth straight win.

The Mariners were profoundly inefficient, stranding eight more runners despite four hits by Ichiro Suzuki. Their fifth loss in seven games prompted manager Mike Hargrove to keep the clubhouse closed for 57 minutes after the final out.

“A little team thing we had going on, a little team thing we needed,” said Joel Pineiro, who yielded seven hits and five earned runs in the loss. “We talked about things that happened and don’t happen. It was good for us, for the team. Hopefully we’ll see the difference.”

Crosby’s bases-loaded single highlighted the A’s three-run first inning against Pineiro (4-4), who walked two and hit two batters in his second straight loss after opening May with two impressive victories.

Nick Swisher, who reached base for the 35th straight game with a first-inning single, had a sacrifice fly in the second. Thomas drove in two more runs in the fifth with his first hit since missing four games with a strained right quadriceps.

The A’s finally have some offensive life after big struggles in the season’s opening weeks, and they’re focused on keeping that momentum through the three-ring circus of attention accompanying Bonds this weekend.

“He’s the greatest hitter ever, (and) it’s a tremendous accomplishment,” said Eric Chavez, who went 1-for-3. “I don’t want to say I’m looking forward to it, but I look at it like I’ve got a pretty good spot to see it. … If he was chasing this number or not, he’d still be booed. It’ll just be a little bit louder.”

Saarloos (2-1) allowed a hit in every inning, but showed off the resourcefulness that got him back in the starting rotation when injuries sidelined Rich Harden and Esteban Loaiza. Saarloos won 10 games as Oakland’s fifth starter last season before getting bumped to the bullpen this spring.

The Mariners closed to 6-3 in the ninth on Suzuki’s RBI single, but Huston Street got the final out for his sixth save in seven chances. That’s when manager Mike Hargrove locked the doors for a heart-to-heart talk.

“Today we let down a little bit, and that concerned me,” Hargrove said. “Our bench got quiet for the first time this year. We sat around and had a lot of people talking. I can’t talk for an hour. I’m good for 55 (minutes). We feel like we have a good ballclub, and we can still be in this thing.”

Suzuki singled, stole a base and eventually scored in the first inning, but Saarloos mostly shut down the rest of the Mariners for the next five innings. Seattle added an unearned run when Jose Lopez drove in Yuniesky Betancourt after Crosby’s error in the seventh.

The 26th four-hit game of Suzuki’s career extended his hitting streak to 12 games, and he went 8-for-14 in the series.

“Yes, we had more of these kinds of meetings in Japan,” Suzuki said through an interpreter. “It’s not unusual at all. You have to do it.”


Betancourt, Carl Everett, Raul Ibanez and Kenji Johjima all have six-game hitting streaks for Seattle. … Before the game, Oakland reinstated LHP Randy Keisler from the bereavement list and optioned RHP Matt Roney to Triple-A Sacramento. Keisler, who left the team last week to be with his ailing grandmother, relieved Saarloos in the seventh and escaped a jam. … Lopez’s 31 RBIs lead AL second basemen. … Saarloos made his 100th career appearance.

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