Once upon a time, Brett Tomko was a Mariner (2000-2001), and his career has taken him to both leagues and eight teams.
Through it all, he’s had a mid-90s fastball and slider, and virtually every team he’s played for tried to make him better.
Here in Oakland, a small change in his delivery – at one point, both his hands are raised over his head – has given him more control down in the strike zone, and more movement.
At 36, he’s sporting a 98-101 record. With the Mariners, he won 13 games. Against them, he’s 0-1.
Tonight, Ken Griffey Jr. is back, Mike Carp is at first base, Bill Hall in left field, Jose Lopez at second base and the Mariners look for their 71st win.
It’s Tomko vs. Ian Snell, who’s only pitched for two teams in his career.
Ichiro singled, his 189th hit of the year and 1,994th of his big-league career. He wasn’t on first base long.
No. 2 hitter Franklin Gutierrez homered, his 15th of the season.
With two outs, Adrian Beltre doubled past a lacksadasical left fielder – Eric Patterson – and Hall hit one about 420 feet into the left field stands, his first with Seattle.
In the first: Mariners 4, Athletics 0
First and third base, no one out after back-to-back Oakland singles – then Beltre throws Adam Kennedy out at the plate on a fielders choice.
That left men on first and second with one out, and Snell promptly walked Jack Cust to load ‘em up.
Pitching like a man in a tie game, Snell was falling behind hitters with a four-run lead, and on a 2-1 pitch gave up a two-run single to Kurt Suzuki, who promptly stole second base.
Twenty-three pitches in, Snell had one out, and the only pitch he’d thrown consistently for a strike was his fastball.
On his 33rd pitch, he got out of the inning.
After one: Mariners 4, Athletics 2
Pitching and defense?
Snell allowed three hits and nearly got out of the inning unscathed because of a double play.
Then, with two on and two out, Snell got a ground ball to shortstop Jack Wilson, who tried to underhand the ball to second for a force – and inexplicably lobbed it perhaps 10 feet over the head of Jose Lopez.
Yes, an error. The first by a Mariner in 11 games. And a run.
After two: Mariners 4, Athletics 3
Long ball II
Hall singled and, with one out, Kenji Johjima hit his seventh home run of the season.
That’s three two-run home runs allowed by Tomko in four innings. Tough way to win, and Snell seems to be settling down, but he needs a quick inning or two – he’s thrown 67 pitches through four.
In the fourth: Mariners 6, Athletics 3
Farewell, Mr. Snell?
Snell leaves the game in position to win his four in a row, and hasn’t gotten through six innings in any of them.
Economical, he’s not. In two of those games, he threw 116 pitches and still didn’t finish the sixth innning.
Tonight, after five, he’s thrown 106 pitches and had one 1-2-3 inning.
Chris Jakubauskas will start the sixth inning.
After five: Mariners 6, Athletics 3
Oh, that bullpen!
Chris Jakubauskas delivered two scoreless innings, striking out three batters and handing a three-run lead to Mark Lowe.
Lowe struck out the first man he faced in the eighth, allowed a solo home run to .180-hitting Daric Barton, then got out of the inning.
To the ninth. Who do you think will pitch it for Seattle?
After eight: Mariners 6, Athletics 4
Seattle opened the ninth with consecutive hits from Mike Carp and Kenji Johjima.
Manager Don Wakamatsu pinch-ran for Carp with Jack Hannahan, and had Jack Wilson bunt the two runners up a base.
Oakland intentionally walked Ichiro to set up the double play so Wakamatsu surprised them with a squeeze bunt by Gutierrez that got Hannahan home.
David Aardsma now pitching.
In the ninth: Mariners 7, Athletics 4
And in the end
Fly ball. Ground ball. Ground ball to second, botched by Lopez. Strike out.
That’s 34 saves for Aardsma, 71 wins for Seattle.
It’s a final: Mariners 7, Athletics 4