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OAK@SEA: Harden fans seven over 5 2/3 frames

SEATTLE -- It was a must-see play the A's likely never want to see again.

Call it a wild defensive mishap. Perhaps bizarre, or just really bad -- a mess of a scene, reminiscent of a Little League affair, which unfortunately highlighted a 4-2 A's loss in Seattle on Tuesday.

No matter the description, it may never be repeated by any Major League club. Sports networks, though, will surely enjoy replays of it for quite a while.

In the meantime, the A's will keep a close eye on Brendan Ryan.

With one out in the first inning against right-hander Rich Harden, the Mariners' infielder beat out a grounder to shortstop Eric Sogard and was behind first baseman Conor Jackson as Jackson held the ball while facing the pitching mound. Taking notice of an empty second base, with Jemile Weeks having moved over to back up first, Ryan darted for second and slid safely into the bag without a throw.

The shenanigans, already of the embarrassing type, kept going when Ryan continued his journey to third base. Again, no one was guarding the bag, as Scott Sizemore had run toward second. All the while, Jackson remained at first with the ball and no one to throw to.

"I don't even know what to say," Jackson said. "I've never seen anything like that. That's a first. I turn around and he's halfway to second and no one's there. I didn't want to throw it, with no one out there, and then he gets all the way to third base."

Not surprisingly, it was a career first for Ryan.

"Not two [bases]," he said. "I've done second a few times, but not two of them. It's really just a wacky opportunity that presented itself and I was just looking for the next bag and was able to get it."

A's manager Bob Melvin simply chalked it up to "a communication problem."

"When Sizemore goes for the ball, and Sogard comes in behind him, Sizemore has to cover second, Sogard has third, Weeks is backing up first," he said. "It's not a lack of hustle or focus, just a lack of communication. When they saw him going to second, they both broke for second, and then he broke for third."

Sogard applauded Ryan's baserunning before quickly adding, "We should be there. We should be able to defend that.

"It's something we'll learn from and definitely won't happen again, that's for sure," he said.

The resulting scoring play was a single, with Ryan advancing to third on a fielder's choice. Really, though, it may as well have been deemed an infield triple. And Ryan, following a Dustin Ackley walk, proceeded to score on Mike Carp's ensuing two-run double to hand Seattle a 2-0 edge.

A speechless Harden could only shrug, sometimes with a smile, when asked about the play after the game.

"I don't know," he said. "I can't say I've ever seen anything like that. It's kind of embarrassing. ... You just gotta put it behind you and go after the next hitter, but it was just kind of a surprise there at the start.

"I don't know what to say. It caught everybody by surprise. It definitely changes the inning."

More like the game, as things didn't exactly get easier with Felix Hernandez on the mound for the Mariners as Oakland dropped its second straight contest.

Hernandez promptly continued his dominance over the A's, striking out nine in 6 1/3 innings, his lone mistake coming right before his exit in the seventh when he surrendered a two-run homer to Sizemore on a 3-2 pitch that cleared the center-field wall.

The Seattle righty owns a five-game winning streak against the A's dating back to the start of the 2009 season. A combined 64 1/3 innings have spanned those nine starts, with Hernandez fanning 67 along the way, and he is now 12-4 with a 2.59 ERA in 21 career starts against Oakland.

"His usual stuff," Jackson said. "Four plus-plus pitches. As much praise as we can give him, we gotta beat him. We have to figure out a way to score runs against him, that's the bottom line. But he's one of the best for a reason."

Harden, meanwhile, settled after the unsettling first frame and tallied four scoreless innings thereafter before surrendering a two-run shot to Casper Wells in the sixth, at which point he was lifted in favor of Fautino De Los Santos.

"It was a changeup," Harden said. "I felt like I threw some really good offspeed pitches today and felt pretty consistent with it, and that came out of my hand a little different, came up and didn't have as much movement. It's a pitch I have confidence in in a lot of different counts, and I just didn't have a good one."

The righty, who was nearly dealt to Boston on Saturday, struck out seven during his 5 2/3 innings of work for the green and gold before commenting postgame that it was "definitely not your typical week."

"He made two mistakes, and they cost him four runs," Melvin said. "Other than that, he was terrific again."

Oakland had its comeback chances in the eighth, with the bases loaded against reliever Jeff Gray with no outs, but Kurt Suzuki and Sogard's back-to-back strikeouts put the threat to rest -- paving the way for the team's 37th road loss of the season.

In the midst of all the strangeness, the A's snapped their club-record streak of 17 consecutive games with at least eight hits. They missed the mark by one, with Hideki Matsui accounting for three of the seven, bringing his Major League-leading post-break average to .485 (32-for-66).

The A's veteran, who entered the break batting .209, has since upped that number to .264.

"Very hard to do when you have that many at-bats accumulated already," Melvin said. "He's been known to be a second-half guy, but the streak that he's on is remarkable. You just don't move your average like that."

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