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Mariners can't hold off A's after 3-homer 4th

Seattle rallies from early deficit but falls short vs. Oakland's 'pen
August 31, 2018

OAKLAND -- The Mariners played some long ball on Friday, but still came up short in a critical battle with the A's as Oakland rallied for a 7-5 victory and continued keeping Seattle at arm's length in the American League Wild Card race.Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Ryon Healy all

OAKLAND -- The Mariners played some long ball on Friday, but still came up short in a critical battle with the A's as Oakland rallied for a 7-5 victory and continued keeping Seattle at arm's length in the American League Wild Card race.
Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Ryon Healy all homered in a four-run fourth inning as Seattle overcame an early 5-1 deficit to tie the game, but the A's pulled away again to even the series at 1-1 as five Oakland relievers didn't allow a run over the final 5 1/3 frames.
The Mariners desperately need to make up ground in this four-game set as they sit 5 1/2 back of the A's at 75-60 with 27 games remaining. Oakland moved within 1 1/2 games of front-running Houston at 81-55.
Healy continuing to contribute under new role
The A's are an MLB-best 47-19 since June 16, with Seattle going 30-35 in that same stretch after leading Oakland by 11 games.
"Playing them four games, every one matters," said Oakland third baseman Matt Chapman. "They're still within reach, obviously, and with a lot of baseball left. So to win a game like that against a team like them is huge. We want to distance ourselves as much as we can. I know they're a good team and they're going to fight until the end, so I don't count them out by any means."
Cano and Cruz went back-to-back off A's starter Mike Fiers to start the fourth inning. It was Cano's sixth homer of the year and second in 15 games since returning from an 80-game suspension, while Cruz increased his team-leading total to 33. Healy then delivered a two-run shot off Fiers for his 24th homer of the season.

"We swung the bats well," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "Fiers is off to a pretty good start since he's come over to Oakland. We were on him tonight. We knew we had to get on him early and get back into it and our guys responded, which was great to see. But just not enough after that and you have to give their bullpen credit. They were really good."

Despite that fourth-inning flurry, Mariners starter Mike Leake couldn't overcome a five-run first by the A's during which he gave up homers to Chapman and Stephen Piscotty. Leake wound up going 4 1/3 innings while allowing 11 hits and six runs on 96 pitches as he fell to 8-9 with a 4.25 ERA.
"They were aggressive and I was leaving balls kind of thigh high for that first inning," Leake said. "Just leaving pitches where they could barrel it up. They definitely seemed more aggressive than the last time I faced them, but I think it's a matter of me putting balls where I need to put it rather than them hitting me."
Leake hadn't received much run support during a 10-start stretch in which he'd gone 0-4 despite a 3.90 ERA. But the 30-year-old right-hander hasn't been sharp his last two outings, giving up 18 hits and 11 runs in 10 1/3 innings in losses to the D-backs and A's on the current road trip.
"Mike has been probably our most-reliable guy, been real consistent the whole year," Servais said. "He just got a few balls up early in the game and paid the price. After that, he really battled to keep us in the game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Leake would have been out of the first inning with just one run if Cameron Maybin had hauled in a two-out shot to deep center by Matt Olson. But Maybin got turned around as he backtracked and the ball -- a 110-mph line drive that carried 380 feet, per Statcast™ -- glanced off his glove for an RBI double. That opened the floodgates as the A's wound up scoring five times on five hits before Leake ended the 30-pitch frame.
"The ball cut at the last second, but it's a play I usually make 9 of 10 times," Maybin said. "I got a good read initially, but it started to kind of cut back to my other side. It was too low to spin. We're taught to spin, but it wasn't high enough so I tried to do almost a karaoke move and get my hips back around. It was not an easy play, but a play I usually make."
"It's a difficult play, no doubt," said Servais. "The toughest ball in center field is that ball right at you, right over your head. The ball can be knuckling and moving around a little bit. He certainly got his glove on it. Big play in the game, no doubt. If he catches the ball, we're out of the inning and you keep going along and save a ton of pitches off Leake and everything else."

SOUND SMART
The three-homer inning by Cano, Cruz and Healy was Seattle's first since July 6, 2016, when Cano, Kyle Seager and Dae-Ho Lee all went deep in the fourth inning at Houston.
HE SAID IT
"We have a team that will compete with anyone. To not give up right away and get back and tie the game says a lot about our team. We're fighting and grinding every at-bat. That's who we are." -- Cano, on Seattle's fourth-inning rally against Fiers, who had been 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in his first four starts since being acquired from Detroit

UP NEXT
The Mariners will get their No. 1 starter back as James Paxton (10-5, 3.68 ERA) gets activated off the 10-day disabled list to start Saturday's 6:05 p.m. PT game against A's right-hander Daniel Mengden (6-6, 4.28). Paxton hasn't pitched since taking a line drive off his left forearm in the first inning of a Sept. 14 start in Oakland. The big lefty is 3-0 with a 3.50 ERA in eight career starts against the A's, including seven scoreless innings with 16 strikeouts earlier this year in Oakland.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.