OAKLAND -- No pitcher in the American League has been more dominant when pitching in his home ballpark this season than A’s starter Cole Irvin. The Mariners, however, continue to be a thorn in his side.
Entering Friday night's series opener holding a 1.66 home ERA that ranked the lowest in the AL, Irvin saw his streak of consecutive home games in which he’d allowed two earned runs or fewer snapped at 11 in a 10-2 loss at the Coliseum. The left-hander was tagged for six runs (five earned) on six hits, with two walks and two strikeouts over six innings.
Since joining the A’s in January 2021, Irvin has made six career starts against the Mariners. In those six outings, he’s 0-6 and holds an 8.42 ERA, having yielded 25 runs (24 earned) in 25 2/3 innings pitched. Those struggles are a far cry from how he’s fared against the rest of baseball. Taking away his numbers vs. Seattle, Irvin holds a combined career ERA of 3.89 against all other Major League teams.
On Friday, most of the damage stemmed from one player: Eugenio Suárez. The Seattle third baseman took Irvin deep twice, first hitting a two-run homer in the fourth on 1-1 hanging curveball and later blasting a three-run shot in the sixth on a 2-1 middle-middle sinker.
"I gave Suárez two good pitches to hit out and he hit both of them," Irvin said. "Just a night where I didn’t get away with a couple of bad pitches. That’s how it goes sometimes."
Asked if last year’s troubles against the Mariners played a factor in what was his first start against them in 2022, Irvin said there was no correlation.
"This year’s been a good year for me," said Irvin, whose 3.13 ERA entering the night was eighth-lowest among qualified AL starters. "First time I’ve faced them all season and I felt strong coming in. Last year is last year and this year is this year. That’s how I operate."
Irvin may have deserved better than what the final line showed. Though both home runs came on clear mistake pitches, he was hurt by a glaring defensive miscue in the sixth one batter before Suárez hit his second home run.
With a runner on first and one out, Irvin induced a ground ball from Mitch Haniger that appeared to be tailor made for a double play, hit directly to shortstop Nick Allen. Charging in for the ball, Allen bobbled the chopping grounder and fired a throw to first base. Haniger was initially ruled safe, the A's challenged the play and the call stood following a replay review. Instead of the inning being over, the error gave way for Suárez’s debilitating homer.
The A’s believe Allen has multiple Gold Glove Awards in his future. Part of the decision behind releasing veteran shortstop Elvis Andrus earlier in the week was an effort to ensure Allen gets ample playing time to fully develop at the Major League level. But with that development comes expected growing pains along the way, and Friday’s defensive mishap was certainly a pivotal one.
Allen wasn’t the only player to make a costly error in the game. With Norge Ruiz coming on in relief of Irvin to begin the seventh for his Major League debut, the right-hander was charged with two unearned runs in the frame following a fly ball that was dropped in right field by Seth Brown -- marking his first error of the season at any outfield position. The Mariners took advantage of Brown’s error with back-to-back RBIs by the next two hitters to break the game open.
"As I’ve stressed, we have to play clean baseball," A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. "That play gets made by Nick 99% of the time. It just looked like he might have got a little rushed. Unfortunately, it seems never to fail that the next hitter capitalizes. I’m sure Nick feels terrible about it. You process it and move on."