Athletics 5, Mariners 4
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Nick Swisher’s day began in sadness on the first anniversary of his grandmother’s death. He later paid tribute to her in a way she would have loved.
His timely swing helped move the first-place Athletics another game up in their division race, too.
Swisher hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning and Oakland beat the Seattle Mariners for the 13th straight time with a 5-4 victory on Monday night.
Swisher wore Betty Lorraine Swisher’s “BLS” initials taped around each wrist and pointed to the sky after his 25th home run of the year sailed over Ichiro Suzuki’s head in right field.
“I didn’t hit that home run, I can tell you that,” Swisher said. “It’s just an awesome day. She pushed it away from Ichiro. She knows that if you drop it over his head he’s going to catch it.”
Mark Ellis and Frank Thomas also homered for the first-place A’s, who lost the first meeting of the year but have won the last 13 in the season series— the Mariners’ second-longest skid to any team in franchise history. The club record for consecutive losses against a single opponent is 15 against the Boston Red Sox during the 1977-78 seasons.
Joe Kennedy (3-0), activated from the disabled list earlier in the day, pitched for the first time since May 9 and got one out on only five pitches for the victory. He missed 84 games with tendinitis in his shoulder.
“I wasn’t expecting this,” he said. “It’s fun to be part of a win.”
Justin Duchscherer pitched the ninth for his third save in five opportunities as Oakland won its fourth straight game and sent Seattle to its fifth straight defeat. The Mariners are winless through the first five games of their 11-game road trip.
Duchscherer picked off Suzuki at first base for the final out—quite a feat considering the leadoff hitter has only been caught three times and has 34 stolen bases.
“That’s the game of baseball. It’s part of the game. Emotional swings like that happen,” Suzuki said of Seattle’s slide against the A’s.
He can’t recall another stretch like this against one team in his career.
“I have a horrible memory,” he said through an interpreter. “Lately my brain has been destroyed.”
Willie Bloomquist homered for the first time in nearly two years and Ben Broussard also connected, but that wasn’t enough to get Seattle over the hump against its division rival. The A’s increased their AL West lead to 5 1/2 games over the Los Angeles Angels, who lost 7-2 to the Yankees in New York.
Ellis hit a tying solo home run with two outs in the fourth with a shot to left-center for his seventh homer of the year, then Bloomquist homered to left leading off Seattle’s two-run fifth. It was his first home run since Sept. 27, 2004, a three-run shot also off Barry Zito—a span of 419 at-bats, 461 plate appearances and 689 days.
Thomas hit a towering solo homer in the fifth that reached the second deck of the left-field bleachers before falling down a level, career homer No. 473 for the Big Hurt and his 25th this season.
Broussard hit a two-run homer into the elevated bleachers in right-center in the second to give Seattle an early cushion—not a bad way to start in his first career encounter with Zito. Adrian Beltre extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a fifth-inning double for Seattle and reached base for the 25th straight game with a walk in the first.
Zito, who made his AL-leading 26th start, lasted only five innings for the second straight outing and vowed afterward to work on his mechanics before he takes the mound again. He also was done early in a 14-0 loss to Texas last Wednesday. Zito has given up six home runs in his three August starts and has thrown 196 pitches in his last two outings.
“I can’t be satisfied about anything about tonight,” the 2002 AL Cy Young award winner said.
Ellis homered for the first time in 26 career at-bats against Washburn, who allowed three runs and eight hits, walked three and didn’t have a strikeout.
Swisher singled in a run in the second to score Thomas, who drew a leadoff walk.
The A’s are 21-9 since the All-Star break, best in the majors. Oakland’s 13 wins against the Mariners match its most ever in one season against Seattle after the A’s went 13-2 in the series in 1978.
The 38-year-old Thomas is batting .343 (23-for-67) with five home runs and 18 RBIs over his last 19 games. … The Mariners have won nine of their last 11 when facing a lefty starter. … A’s CF Mark Kotsay didn’t start for the seventh straight game because of back spasms but came in for defense in the ninth. … Washburn is 0-4 with a 5.19 ERA over his last six starts against the A’s.