OAKLAND, Calif. — Sonny Gray already had a tough start when Endy Chavez bounced a chopper through a vacant middle infield and turned a single into a two-run double.
The Oakland Athletics nearly rallied in the ninth inning before losing for the fifth time in six games, falling 6-5 to James Paxton and the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.
In the fourth, second baseman Alberto Callaspo moved to shallow center trying to make a play on Chavez’s ball, but shortstop Jed Lowrie was late moving toward the bag, and Chavez had already begun sliding into second. No throw was made.
“Chavez hits probably the shortest double you’ve ever seen in your life,” Gray said. “I know it is for me, shortest one I’ve ever seen.”
The A’s remained 4 1/2 games back of the first-place Angels, who lost at Houston. Seattle is third in the AL wild-card standings.
Oakland didn’t seem too concerned afterward.
“No matter what inning you score in, it was a one-run game. We’re one swing of the bat away from winning it,” Norris said. “They didn’t score for seven innings, either. That’s why you play all nine innings.”
The rubber game Wednesday afternoon between the division rivals and playoff contenders has the makings of quite a pitcher’s duel. In a matchup of 13-game winners, Seattle ace Felix Hernandez faces Jon Lester.
Paxton pounded the strike zone to induce groundballs as he carried a shutout into the eighth, and his defense dazzled behind him.
“This young man’s got greatness written all over him, he’s just got to stay healthy,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I thought it was a dominant performance.”
Paxton (5-1) gave up three hits through the seventh. Ahead 6-0, he was chased in Oakland’s three-run eighth, and the A’s nearly got even in a harried ninth.
Seattle closer Fernando Rodney took over with a 6-3 lead and retired the first two batters. He then gave up consecutive doubles to Derek Norris and pinch-hitters Brandon Moss and Sam Fuld before retiring Josh Reddick on a grounder for his 40th save.
Paxton allowed two runs and four hits in 7 2-3 innings. He improved to 8-1 with a 1.77 ERA in 12 career starts.
“I was just going at them with my fastball. They weren’t making the adjustment and they were hitting groundballs and hitting it right at guys, so I just kept on pounding away,” Paxton said. “They got themselves out.”
Gray (13-8) gave up six runs and seven hits in five innings. He is 1-5 in seven outings since his 5-0 July earned him the AL Pitcher of the Month award. Gray came in 4-0 with a 1.10 ERA in his first five starts against the Mariners.
“I thought he pitched better than the numbers would suggest,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.
Kyle Seager hit a two-run homer that helped the Mariners build a 6-0 lead.
A day after hitting a home run in his first at-bat since joining the A’s, Adam Dunn had an RBI single as a pinch-hitter in the eighth to put Oakland on the board. Craig Gentry added a two-run double for his third hit.
Austin Jackson hit a two-run single in the third. Seager homered in the fifth, Gray’s final inning.