"The at-bats are just much more competitive and obviously we're getting our fair share of hits, most of the time," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "But [we're not] putting innings together, or more importantly for me, finishing off innings -- I think I've said that too many times this year.
"It's a situation where we've got guys up there -- maybe one out, maybe two outs with runners in scoring position -- somebody's got to come through. It's a big separator. Then you got a chance to string it together. We need to be better at that."
The A's broke the scoreless tie in the fifth behind a monster blast by Jonny Gomes. With two outs, Adam Rosales and Coco Crisp hit back-to-back singles off Mariners starter Jason Vargas, who had retired nine straight.
That brought up Gomes, who crushed an offering from the southpaw off the upper-deck facade in left field to give the A's a 3-0 lead.
"Coming into today I was joking around with [manager] Bob [Melvin], like, why I'm even starting today?" Gomes said. "He's the lefty that has given me the most headaches. I was able just lock it in at that third at-bat. When I get runners in scoring position, I have kind of been doing a good job of locking it in. I took the first two pitches to see if he was going to come at me or run away from me with [Josh] Reddick behind me so he could get that lefty-lefty. I was just able to jump on that first fastball."
"I think the difference is more letting Rosales extend the inning there," Vargas said. "I mean, obviously Gomes has power and hit a fairly good pitch. Could have been alleviated if I finished off the inning earlier.
"It wasn't even the fact that [the pitch to Gomes] was up, I was trying to go above his bat and in on his hands. He was able to stay on it and hit it off the deck. It's not really one of those things, the pitch that I was worried about. Like I said before, it was the two batters before that when I let them extend it."
The Mariners struck back with a two-out run in the bottom of the fifth. Alex Liddi led off the frame with his first Major League hit since May 30, a single, and was on second after a stolen base when Michael Saunders lined a pitch into the right-field corner.
Liddi easily scampered home, and Saunders slid into third for an RBI triple. It was Saunders' fourth hit in the past three games.
Kyle Seager added a solo shot in the sixth to bring the Mariners within 3-2, but that was all they would manage, as A's starter Tommy Milone struck out 10 in six innings, fanning five of the first six he faced.
Vargas was the tough-luck loser, going seven strong innings, striking out six. Three of the four hits he allowed came in successive order in the decisive fifth.
"I was down with my fastball, for the most part, except for that second inning, I was able to kind of throw it where I wanted to," Vargas said. "I was able to work a little bit more efficient, if you can do that."