Oakland shut down by Noesi in 4-0 loss to Mariners
By TIM BOOTH
SEATTLE (AP) It's only two weeks into the regular season, but run production is already becoming a concern for Oakland.
The Athletics were shut out for the second time in four games Saturday night when Seattle's Hector Noesi gave up just five hits in eight sharp innings and the Mariners cruised to a 4-0 win over the A's.
Oakland managed only four singles and an eighth-inning double from Jemile Weeks.
"I think it's a contagious thing right now," manager Bob Melvin said. "All spring we were scoring early in the game, getting guys on early. I had a good feeling about it. Right now it's just the opposite. We're having trouble getting something going early on."
Noesi's strong performance was backed by Jesus Montero's solo home run in the second inning for Seattle and a two-out, two-run double in the sixth off Oakland starter Tommy Milone that broke the game open.
Milone (1-1) was rolling with a one-hitter into the sixth before Seattle scored three times. But even he was noticing the lack of help from his offense.
"It's always a little harder when we're not scoring runs because you're trying to keep the team in the ballgame. Sometimes you feel like you can't give up any runs. That's not going to happen, so it's harder. But it happens," Milone said. "As a pitcher you want to go out there and throw up zeros, but I didn't do that today."
Oakland's hitters struggled to get the ball out of the infield against Noesi (1-1), who struck out six. Of the 24 outs he recorded, nine popups were caught by infielders and another five fly balls were caught by outfielders.
Noesi's performance was one half of Seattle's showcase effort from two of its biggest offseason additions.
There were plenty of expectations when Seattle gave up All-Star pitcher Michael Pineda to get Montero from the New York Yankees in an effort to help its staggering offense. The goal by bringing in the young slugger was to find a bat that could provide the pop Seattle's offense has missed but would remain under the team's control for a number of years.
Montero's power had not shown up through the first couple of weeks, but it was on display Saturday. Montero lined a 3-2 pitch 415 feet over the wall in center field. It was his first extra-base hit in a Mariners uniform and he was greeted by a standing ovation from the appreciative home crowd.
"It was cool. It was exciting for me to hit a home run in this field. It's a huge field," Montero said. "I was impressed."
But Montero's homer was it for the offense until the sixth when the Mariners finally got to Milone. Seattle got its first hit since Montero's homer when Brendan Ryan lined a single with one out. Ryan then got gutsy and made it to third on Chone Figgins' single to left-center, with Figgins going to second on the throw.
Justin Smoak walked when Milone was wide with a 3-2 pitch to force in Ryan. Montero then broke it open with an inside-out swing that dropped a liner down the right-field line and scored a pair. Smoak was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first.
Milone gave up four runs and four hits in six innings.
"I thought the last pitch was a strike, but being a pitcher obviously I want that to be a strike," Milone said of his battle with Smoak. "Who knows, it could have been a little off. I'm biased. I want it to be a strike."
Although he was somewhat overlooked in the framework of the trade, Seattle's management was just as excited about bringing Noesi over from New York. He was knocked around in his first start for the Mariners, giving up six hits and seven earned runs in three innings against Texas. But back in a more pitcher-friendly park, Noesi flustered the A's.
Noesi scattered hits to Daric Barton, Josh Reddick and a pair to Cliff Pennington. He ran into trouble with two outs in the eighth when Pennington's second hit was followed by Weeks' ground-rule double to deep center. Despite being at 104 pitches, Noesi stayed in and got Coco Crisp to pop out to end the inning.
NOTES: Seattle LHP George Sherrill has not received MRI results on his sore left elbow but said it started bothering him after the Mariners returned from Japan. Sherrill was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday with a strained flexor bundle. ... Melvin said he would announce Oakland's No. 5 starter on Sunday. Because of schedules, the A's have not needed a fifth starter until Tuesday's game at the Angels.
Updated April 15, 2012