A’s edge Mariners to avoid sweep

SEATTLE — The Mariners couldn’t complete the sweep Sunday. They couldn’t help but feel good about themselves, anyway.

Oakland’s Sonny Gray quieted the Mariners’ bats, and the Athletics escaped Safeco Field with a 4-1 victory to enter the All-Star break with the best record in the major leagues.

After stellar starts from Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma the previous two days, the Mariners could settle for the series win Sunday. At 51-44, the Mariners enter the break with their best first-half record since 2003. They’re eight games back of the A’s in the AL West but 2 1/2 games ahead of Kansas City and Toronto for the AL’s second wild-card berth.

“We feel good,” All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano said. “We should feel proud of ourselves with this first half.”

They’re not content, though.

“I still think our best baseball’s ahead of us,” veteran right-hander Chris Young said. “We’re pleased with where we are, but we’re not satisfied.”

Young (8-6), the Mariners’ biggest surprise in their surprising first half, breezed through the first four innings before a crowd of 25,944 at sunny Safeco after the Mariners staked him to an early 1-0 lead.

The A’s (59-36) then scratched out two two-out runs in the fifth inning to take the lead, and Brandon Moss added a towering solo home run in the sixth inning in what Young said was his only real mistake pitch of the day.

“They’re a good club. There’s a reason they have the best record in baseball. You give them credit,” Young said.

James Jones, after reaching on a one-out single in the bottom of the first, moved from first to third on Gray’s errant pickoff throw. Two pitches later, Jones scored on Cano’s swinging bunt back to Gray.

The Mariners couldn’t muster much offense after that.

They had a chance to add to their lead after Cano and Kyle Seager led off the fourth inning with singles, putting runners at the corners with no outs. But Gray got Logan Morrison to hit into a 1-6 fielder’s choice; Justin Smoak popped out to third; and Dustin Ackley struck out.

“That came back to bite us,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said.

Gray (10-3) allowed only the unearned run in the first, scattering six hits in 72/3 innings. He struck out five and walked two.

“He was terrific,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “We needed him today, obviously. … You never want to get swept the last three games going into the break; it just doesn’t feel very good.”

The Mariners chased Gray in the eighth inning after a one-out single by Endy Chavez. After Jones grounded out, Cano was intentionally walked, prompting a call for A’s closer Sean Doolittle out of the bullpen.

Doolittle got Seager, a first-time All-Star, to pop out to end the inning.

Nick Punto hit a solo home run off M’s reliever Joe Beimel in the top of the ninth for the A’s.

Doolittle then closed it out in the ninth for his 14th save.

The Mariners still had reason to feel good about themselves after closing out a solid first half.

“It was a good series for us, there’s no question about that,” McClendon said. “Picked up a game in the standings. Our guys finished the first half pretty strong, so I was very pleased with that.”


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