OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—The Oakland Athletics don’t look like last season’s AL West bottom-feeder anymore. They have a little winning streak already, a rarity for this club a year ago.
The A’s delivered strong pitching, aggressive baserunning, timely hitting and two downright spectacular defensive plays in their latest impressive victory.
Brett Anderson(notes) pitched shutout ball into the seventh inning of a strong season debut, Daric Barton(notes) drove in a career-high four runs and the A’s beat the Seattle Mariners 6-2 on Thursday to take three of the first four in the AL West rivalry.
So much for the fast start Seattle was looking for out of the gate in a year the Mariners hope to contend for their first division crown since 2001.
“Really, they did exactly what we came out to try to do,” Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said. “They rebounded after that first loss and played very effective baseball.”
Cliff Pennington(notes) and Ryan Sweeney(notes) each added RBI doubles for the A’s, off to a strong start after losing the season series to Seattle the past two years. The A’s hope they can use this start for some momentum considering last year they began 2-1 but never were above .500 the rest of the way.
Anderson (1-0), an 11-game winner during his rookie season of 2009, allowed the first two batters to reach base in the seventh and was relieved by Chad Gaudin(notes) after 97 pitches. Gaudin then got three outs on nine pitches.
Anderson allowed three hits, struck out four and walked one. Franklin Gutierrez(notes) drew that lone free pass to chase Anderson. The left-hander beat the Mariners this time after taking the loss in his major league debut against them last April 10.
Gaudin struck out three in 1 2-3 innings in his first appearance since rejoining the A’s following his March 25 release by the Yankees. Mike Sweeney(notes) singled in Seattle’s first run with one out in the ninth off Jerry Blevins(notes). Reigning AL Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey(notes) entered and allowed Matt Tuiasosopo’s(notes) RBI single before retiring pinch-hitter Casey Kotchman(notes) on a game-ending double play.
Barton hit a two-run single in the eighth after RBI singles in the fourth and sixth innings, helping the A’s win the final three games of the series after losing Monday night’s season opener 5-3.
The first three games were decided in the final at-bat. After the A’s play this weekend against the Angels in Anaheim and Seattle visits Texas, these clubs will meet up again starting Monday at Safeco Field.
A’s center fielder Rajai Davis(notes) stole a likely home run from Milton Bradley(notes) starting the second, with a leaping catch against the wall and his glove over the fence. The typically mercurial Bradley tipped his batting helmet to Davis in salute of the great play.
“I missed that one,” Davis said of Bradley’s respectful gesture. “I believed I’d catch it.”
“I don’t think I’d do that, no way,” Ellis said of tipping his cap in that situation.
Three innings later, catcher Kurt Suzuki(notes) made a gutsy running and sliding catch just in front of Seattle’s dugout on Jose Lopez’s(notes) foul. Oakland is one of few ballparks he could pull it off considering the large area of foul territory.
“To take a guy in catcher’s gear, that’s right up there with Eric’s Gold Glove plays,” manager Bob Geren said. “And he was going into enemy territory.”
Suzuki took off immediately—a reason he got there in time.
“I saw it go up and I got a pretty good beat on it,” Suzuki said. “I know there’s a lot of foul territory and you can never give up on a ball. I slid and felt it hit my glove and was like, ‘Hey!”’
Seattle starter Doug Fister(notes) (0-1), on the opening day roster for the first time after making 11 appearances last season, gave up two runs and six hits in four innings, struck out two and walked three.
NOTES: Mariners LHP Cliff Lee(notes) is set for a 25-pitch bullpen session Friday at Texas to test his strained abdominal muscle that landed the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner on the DL to start the season. On Wednesday, Lee threw eight pitches from flat ground and eight off the mound. “I feel perfectly fine,” Lee said. … 1B Tuiasosopo earned his first start of the season. He struck out looking leading off the third on a 13-pitch at-bat and singled in the eighth. … Speedy Seattle No. 2 hitter Chone Figgins(notes) stole his third base of the season but was caught stealing for the first time. … Only six times in all of 2009 did the A’s have a winning streak of three or more games.