Nick Punto tossed the bat and was already leaning toward first base, certain Oakland would get another chance in the ninth inning.
“I felt like I put myself in a pretty good position to get on base and keep the inning extended a bit,” Punto said. “It just didn’t work out.”
Punto was called out on strike three to close out Seattle’s 3-2 win over the Athletics on Friday night with the tying run at third base, leaving the A’s second baseman and manager Bob Melvin incensed at the call made by home plate umpire James Hoye.
Punto slammed his batting helmet to the ground with both hands and argued. Melvin quickly joined in, saying the full-count pitch from Seattle closer Fernando Rodney missed the strike zone. Instead of another at bat with runners at the corners, Derek Norris was left standing at third as the A’s lost for just the second time in nine games and Rodney celebrated his 27th save.
“Just look at it … a tough way to end the game,” Melvin said.
Prior to the ninth, the night was all about the starters. Oakland’s Jeff Samardzija pitched well in his second start with the A’s, throwing eight innings and giving up just five hits.
But he was outpitched by Seattle ace Felix Hernandez and his eight strong innings to pick up his 11th victory before the All-Star break for the first time in his career. Hernandez made his 11th straight start going at least seven innings and giving up two earned runs or less. It’s the longest streak for an American League pitcher since Gaylord Perry had 11 straight for Cleveland in 1974.
He also made a strong final pitch to be the starter for the American League at Tuesday’s All-Star game.
“An honor. I would love to do it,” Hernandez said. “We’ll see.”
Samardzija is 1-1 with Oakland after going 2-7 for the Chicago Cubs.
Robinson Cano provided the go-ahead hit in the sixth inning. James Jones doubled with two outs in the sixth and Cano followed with a flare that landed inches fair down the left-field line to break a 2-all tie.
“I wasn’t giving him much there,” Samardzija said. “He was aggressive early and put the bat on the ball.”
Oakland got to Hernandez for a pair of rare first-inning runs.
Stephen Vogt’s solo homer was just the sixth allowed by Hernandez this season, extending his hitting streak to 11 games. Josh Donaldson followed with a double and scored on Jed Lowrie’s single that sneaked through the infield.
Hernandez had given up three first-inning runs all season.
But after Lowrie’s single, Hernandez permitted just four baserunners. He struck out the side in the fourth and sixth inning and needed just five pitches to cruise through the seventh.
“I was locked in. I was throwing a lot of strikes,” Hernandez said. “After that everything was working.”
Hernandez found himself in a jam in the fifth with runners on the corners and two outs, but Donaldson flied out.
After Vogt led off the eighth with a single, Donaldson grounded into a double play, drawing a fist pump and scream from Hernandez. He then got Brandon Moss to ground out on his 101st pitch to end the eighth and his night.
“Typically with good pitchers you get them before they get in the rhythm,” Melvin said. “But we couldn’t do anything after.”
Seattle chipped away at Samardzija, starting with Logan Morrison’s homer leading off the second. Seattle pulled even in the third when Brad Miller doubled, advanced to third on Mike Zunino’s groundout and scored on Endy Chavez’s sacrifice fly.
“There’s a couple of pitches I would like to have back for sure,” Samardzija said.
NOTES: Hernandez won 10 games before the All-Star break in 2009 and 2013. … Oakland 1B Alberto Callaspo left the game in the second inning after straining his right hamstring running out a ground ball. … Oakland OF Coco Crisp was out of Friday’s lineup with a sore neck and Melvin unsure of his availability for the series. … Seattle had been 2 for 35 with runners in scoring position prior to Cano’s double.
Updated July 12, 2014