Mariners lose seesaw battle to A's
Bradley hits first homer, but Seattle squanders three leads
OAKLAND -- Milton Bradley's first hit with the Mariners traveled about 400 feet and produced two runs in the first inning Wednesday night.
If only he could have extended his glove another inch or so in the ninth inning, he and the Mariners might have played long enough to walk away with smiles.
The Bradley blast got Seattle off to a good start in what turned out to be a back-and-forth tilt against the Athletics, but the third game of the four-game series ended the same way as the second -- with the home team walking off with a victory, this one a kick-in-the-gut, 6-5 defeat before 18,194 at the Oakland Coliseum.
The end came suddenly.
With one out, a runner on first and the count full on Athletics catcher Kurt Suzuki, Mariners right-hander Mark Lowe threw what he thought was a good pitch. But the ball was hit high and deep to left field and bounced against the wall, scoring Kevin Kouzmanoff with the decisive run.
Asked afterwards in a silent visiting clubhouse how close he came to the ball, Bradley said, "Make your own assessment."
Lowe said, "When it went up, I thought it would be caught at the [warning] track, but it carried more than I thought it would."
Suzuki, who contributed a single in the 10th inning of Tuesday night's walk-off win, was the man delivering the key blow in this one.
"You want to start the season strong while facing a great team like Seattle," he said. "You want to come out of the gates and match yourself up to see what it's like against the rival. They've got a great team, and we've played three great games.
The Mariners had three leads in the game, the last being a 5-4 advantage going into the bottom of the seventh inning, thanks to an RBI single to center by Franklin Gutierrez in the sixth inning.
But the Athletics pulled even with a run in the seventh off Brandon League and won it two innings later.
"That's the third game in a row those guys have played us extremely tough," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "I have to tip my hat to those guys. They kept pecking away and never gave up."
All three games have gone down to the wire. The Mariners won the series opener by scoring two runs in the ninth inning, but the Athletics have retaliated with two walk-off wins.
"It's always going to be competitive against them," Bradley said. "We have 19 games this year, or whatever we got, and it will be like this every night. In that situation, Kurt is the last guy you want to see. He's swinging the bat well."
The switch-hitting Bradley, hitless in his first seven at-bats this season swung the bat exceedingly well in the first inning, sending a Justin Duchscherer fastball into the right-field bleachers, giving left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith a quick 2-0 lead.
But Seattle's offense went quiet for a few innings and the Athletics used single runs in the first, third, fourth and fifth to go ahead.
Rowland-Smith was able to stay away from a big inning, but each time the Mariners scored in the top of a frame, he surrendered a run in the bottom of the same inning.
"I just felt he never got the rhythm or the timing out there," Wakamatsu said. "Obviously, his pitch count got up and he didn't give us the length we needed with our bullpen right now."
Rowland-Smith's first start of the season ended after five innings and 101 pitches.
"I battled and stayed away from the big inning," he said. "I got the count to 3-and-2 on some guys and they would foul off a few pitches and that got my pitch-count up a bit. But overall, I felt fine and thought I was throwing strikes.
"I left the ball up a couple of times and got hurt."
Rajai Davis made Rowland-Smith pay for one such pitch, hitting a home run to left field in the third inning to tie the game at 2.
The Mariners are going with a six-man bullpen and already have used all of the relievers at least once, which is why Wakamatsu wanted at least one or two more innings from his starter.
Lowe was pitching for the second time in two nights.
"We are three games in and we have played three extremely tough ballgames," Wakamatsu said. "It's getting tougher and tougher [on the bullpen] when you play these close games. You try not to abuse guys."
The back-to-back walk-off losses are tougher on a team than losing by a wide margin, but Wakamatsu was encouraged by what he saw from his team.
"There are a lot of things we can build off this game, especially offensively," Wakamatsu said. "We talked of lack of production from the bottom of the order [on Tuesday], but we got it tonight."
Jose Lopez, batting fifth, went 3-for-4, scored a run and stole a base while Gutierrez, batting sixth, went 2-for-4, scored a run, had an RBI and was robbed of two hits, including what would have been a double down the third-base line that ended the eighth inning with a runner on first.
"I thought we played some pretty good baseball," Wakamatsu said. "Milton made a couple of nice plays early in the game to save some runs, but my hat is off to Oakland tonight. They played better than we did."
For the first time this young season, the Mariners' offense finally had more than one hit in one inning. Singles by Gutierrez, Jack Wilson and Ichiro Suzuki in the fifth inning was the first time in 24 frames.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.