Valencia flirts with cycle to lift A's over Seattle
By Greg Johns and Jane Lee
SEATTLE -- Danny Valencia capped a three-hit night with a two-run homer off reliever Danny Farquhar in the eighth inning Friday night to lift the A's to a 4-2 victory over the Mariners in the opening game of the season-ending series at Safeco Field.
Valencia's 17th home run of the season left him a triple shy of the cycle and made a winner out of right-hander Aaron Brooks, who gave up two runs and six hits over seven frames and is now 3-4 since being acquired from the Royals in the Ben Zobrist deal in late July.
"Similar to his first couple outings, he's throwing strikes, keeping the ball down, mixing it up," manager Bob Melvin said. "He impressed early on and he's had some tough games, but when he pitches like that he's effective, and against good lineups too. We've seen him pitch against some pretty good teams with that same stuff."
Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma finished the season at 9-5 with a 3.54 ERA, taking a no-decision after allowing two runs (one earned) in seven innings and turning a 2-2 tie over to Farquhar. Oakland (67-96) snapped a five-game losing streak against the Mariners, who have dropped nine of their last 10 to fall to 75-85.
"It was a tight ballgame and I knew it," Iwakuma said. "As the game started, they battled every at-bat and got my pitch count up, but I was able to battle in each situation. The game was on the line a couple times early on, but I was able to keep the damage minimized. At the end, it's unfortunate we lost, but I think I was able to pitch my game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Valencia delivers: Valencia snapped an 0-for-11 streak with a second-inning leadoff double against Iwakuma for the first of his three hits, providing his club a needed spark against a tough lefty. The third baseman was back at the plate to lead off the fourth, and he singled and scored a run in advance of his heroics in the eighth inning.
"We weren't getting very good swings at all against Iwakuma early on, and he goes the other way, hits a double, and we start getting better at-bats and kind of feeding off that at-bat of his," Melvin said. "Then to get a fastball that's probably chin-high against a guy that's pitching pretty well for them, a really good game for him."
Miller time: Center fielder Brad Miller was given the Mariners Unsung Hero award by the Baseball Writers Association of America before the game, then came through with a 3-for-3 night that included his career-high 11th home run. Miller's opposite-field shot in the fifth got Seattle on the board against Brooks and the Mariners tied the game at 2 when Nelson Cruz followed with an RBI single. Miller has hit .304 (45-for-148) over his last 51 games to raise his season average to .258. More >
"I'll take 'em any way," Miller said of the award. "It was pretty cool to be recognized for kind of keeping my head high through everything and just coming to the park and playing hard."
Seven strong: An A's club that's struggled to get quality starts received seven innings from Brooks, who became the first pitcher on the team to complete that many innings since Brooks matched that total Sept. 20. Before that, the right-hander had completed just 12 1/3 combined innings in his previous three starts, allowing 17 earned runs in that span.
"Staying consistent is the name of the game as far as pitching goes," Brooks said, "and it's just huge for me to end the season like that. … Just to kind of wrap up a few consistent starts here toward the end is really good for me I think."
Twin killing: Two errors on rookie shortstop Ketel Marte on the same play cost Iwakuma an unearned run in the third inning. With runners on first and second, catcher Jesus Sucre tried to pick Billy Burns off first. HIs throw was just a tick late, but first baseman Logan Morrison then fired to second to try to catch lead runner Sam Fuld. Instead, that throw got by Marte into shallow center for one error and Marte compounded the problem by throwing wildly past Sucre at home as Fuld scored easily for Oakland's first run.
"That's what I call alley ball and that's just not acceptable," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "It was [a good pickoff attempt] and that's where it should've ended."
WHAT'S NEXT A's: The A's will have left-hander Sean Nolin on the mound for Saturday's middle matchup of a three-game, season-ending series against the Mariners at Safeco Field, with first pitch scheduled for 6:10 p.m. PT. Nolin is 1-2 with a 5.25 ERA in five starts.
Mariners:Roenis Elias (5-8, 3.89) makes his final 2015 start in Saturday's game. The lefty is 1-1 with a 3.44 ERA in four outings vs. the A's, including a loss on July 2 in his lone meeting this year, when he allowed three hits and three runs in six innings at Oakland.
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.