Elias' strong debut overshadowed by first loss
Lefty holds Oakland hitless into fifth, but Seattle falls in extras
OAKLAND -- Left-hander Roenis Elias gave up just one run in five innings in his Major League debut on Thursday night, but the A's rallied in the 12th inning for a 3-2 victory that snapped Seattle's three-game win streak to start the season.
Oakland tied the game in the eighth with an RBI triple by Yoenis Cespedes off Tom Wilhelmsen, then won the game in the 12th with a walk-off home run by leadoff hitter Coco Crisp on the second pitch he saw from Hector Noesi.
Crisp acknowledged he was trying to end the four-hour, six-minute affair with one big swing, and he wound up driving an 0-1 fastball from Noesi over the right-field wall.
"I was swinging as hard as I could," said Crisp, who hit a career-high 22 homers last year for the A's. "I stepped out [after strike one]. Then I was going to go back to my normal approach. Then I was like, 'Nah, I'm just gonna let it fly again.' I just happened to catch it."
Crisp fouled a first-pitch fastball off, then turned around a 93-mph heater on Noesi's second offering.
"It was probably a little bit more up than we wanted," said Mariners catcher Mike Zunino. "Coco is a great hitter looking for a fastball in that count, and he was able to get a little bit of extension and get the ball up in the air."
After racking up a Major League-leading 26 runs in a three-game sweep in Anaheim, Seattle managed just one earned run and six hits while going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position against four Oakland pitchers at the O.co Coliseum.
The Mariners were trying to open a season with four straight wins for just the second time in franchise history, but instead suffered their first loss under new manager Lloyd McClendon despite holding the A's to six hits.
Seattle continued getting excellent results from its young rotation as the Mariners' first four starters -- Felix Hernandez, Erasmo Ramirez, James Paxton and Elias -- have combined to go 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 25 innings of work.
Elias, a 25-year-old Cuban who was pitching Double-A ball last year, overcame a wild first two innings to go five frames with two hits, one run, three walks and three strikeouts on 80 pitches.
Elias didn't give up a hit until there were two outs in the fifth, and both of those came after the youngster thought he'd frozen Nick Punto for a called third strike.
The A's gifted Seattle a run in the first when Abraham Almonte reached second on a pair of errors, moved to third on a deep fly to center by Brad Miller and scored on Robinson Cano's grounder to second.
Almonte was heavily involved in the Mariners' second run of the game as well, driving in Logan Morrison from second with a single up the middle that tore the glove off pitcher Jesse Chavez's hand. With Dustin Ackley drawing a throw as he went first to third on the play, Almonte hustled into second ahead of a throw back there by third baseman Josh Donaldson.
But moments later, Almonte's aggressiveness backfired when Miller grounded to second against a drawn-in infield. Ackley held at third on the play, but Almonte steamed into the same base, leading to a 4-3-2 double play when the A's got the force at first and Ackley had to break for home after realizing he had too much company at third.
McClendon wasn't upset by the aggressive approach, but said players just have to be smart about when to attack.
"Obviously we had some good things and we had some bad things tonight," he said. "But I certainly don't want them to revert to being timid. We'll correct the mistakes and get better."
Things got even wackier for Almonte in the bottom of the fifth, when he dove for a Fuld line drive in center field. The ball scooted past Almonte all the way to the wall, but the Mariners threw out Fuld trying for an inside-the-park home run with a perfect relay from right fielder Morrison to Cano to Zunino.
The play was reviewed by the umpires, and the original out decision would stand after a 3 1/2-minute break in the action as they checked to see if Zunino gave Fuld an open path as required by this year's new rules on blocking the plate. The review was the first of the season involving the Mariners.
McClendon was surprised this one went to replay in a situation dictated by the umpires.
"It really baffled me because my catcher was in fair territory the whole time until he got the ball," McClendon said. "But it is what it is."
The skipper said he didn't send Elias back out for the sixth because of the extra-long delay, even though he was built up enough to throw 100-110 pitches.
"That was a very unfortunate incident in a lot of ways and one that I felt was not supposed to happen, where the team was supposed to stay on the field and then you've got your pitcher sitting over there for almost five minutes," McClendon said. "That's just, to me, not acceptable. We've got to get that straight."
But Elias was more frustrated by what he thought was a third strike to Punto when he and Zunino both headed off the field after the second baseman looked at a two-strike curve that would have ended the inning.
"I sincerely thought it was a strike," Elias said through interpreter Fernando Alcala. "The umpire didn't call it a strike and if I'd gotten that call, I'd have gotten out of the frame without giving up a run."
Instead, Punto singled to left and Fuld drove in the tying run with his triple, cutting the Mariners' margin to 2-1 on what turned out to be Elias' final pitch of the game.
Despite the outcome, it was a night to remember for Elias, who defected from Cuba on a boat to Mexico in 2010 and has dreamed ever since of pitching in the Majors.
"I was very excited, especially with the support I got from my teammates and coaches," he said. "It was a beautiful thing, something I won't ever forget in my life."