Duchscherer falls in return from DL

Duchscherer falls in return from DL

SEATTLE -- It was a setback for the A's on Saturday, losing a 5-3 decision to the Mariners, yet it still seemed like a step forward.

Taking a full-season view, this was a game in which Justin Duchscherer showed that he's healthy and ready to assume a significant role in the rotation.

The offense also displayed its mettle, down by four runs in the ninth against one of the top closers in the league, J.J. Putz, the A's scored two and had the go-ahead runs on base.

"I'm extremely pleased," A's manager Bob Geren said of Duchscherer. "We were looking at four to five innings, 70, 80 pitches. He met or exceeded all expectations. He came out of it healthy. He threw well."

This was a test of attrition between the two starters. Duchscherer, activated for the start after spending 20 days on the disabled list with a strained right biceps, gave up six hits and two runs in five innings with no walks and a pair of strikeouts.

However, Mariners' lefty Erik Bedard, also just off the DL after 18 days (sore hip), had more longevity and success. He held the A's hitless for the first four innings, yielding just two hits over his 6 2/3 innings.

Duchscherer, on about an 80-pitch limit, threw 73 pitches in his five innings. Bedard threw 95.

"We should have scored more runs because [Duchscherer] pitched really well, as well," said first baseman Mike Sweeney. "But Bedard pitched a tick better."

That tick may have been the ball hitting Sweeney's bat in the ninth, an unlucky event that ended the rally and the game.

The A's, trailing 5-1 entering the ninth, started their rally on an Emil Brown single. After one out, Putz walked Chris Denorfia and Jack Hannahan. Pinch-hitter Daric Barton then drove home two with a single to left.

A passed ball moved the runners to second and third. After Kurt Suzuki popped out to second, Mark Ellis walked to load the bases. That brought up Sweeney, who had hit a solo home run in the eighth, the 199th of his career.

"J.J. is one of the better closers in the game," Sweeney said. "He's scuffling a little bit. We had the go-ahead runners on base. I went up there with the idea of getting a good pitch to hit.

"It started in the zone, 98 miles per hour and ran up and in. I didn't get the job done. It's as simple as that."

The hard fastball found his bat and rolled out in front of home plate. Catcher Jamie Burke pounced on it and threw Sweeney out at first.

"It was a great effort right up to the end there," Geren said. "We had our No. 3 hitter up. The pitcher was somewhat in trouble, and the ball kind of ran in and hit his bat. It was an unfortunate ending, but it was a great battle for our guys."

The Mariners reached Duchscherer for one run in the third. Yuniesky Betancourt drilled a one-out double into the left-field corner. Ichiro Suzuki followed with a soft single to center. Rajai Davis' throw to plate was late and wide.

Duchscherer was unlucky in the fourth. With runners on second and third and one out, Duchscherer appeared to have Brad Wilkerson fooled on a 2-2 inside fastball. But Wilkerson managed to hit a jam shot gently toward short against the deep-set infield for an infield hit and RBI.

"I threw stuff away, then went in with a fastball and jammed him pretty good," Duchscherer said. "But he hit it so soft we couldn't make a play on it. It's one of those situations where you're frustrated as a pitcher because you make a pitch, you beat the guy, but you don't get the result you needed."

The Mariners scored one in the sixth on Norton's RBI single off Joey Devine. It was the first run allowed by Devine since July 16, 2007, a streak of 13 2/3 innings.

Norton also had a two-run double in the eighth off Dallas Braden, runs that proved to be the critical difference.

Bobby Crosby's fifth-inning double into the left-field corner was the A's first hit. Brown had a pair of singles. The A's have just eight hits in the past two games but have still split the two.

"My body felt good, I had no problem. I threw my 73 pitches pain-free," Duchscherer added. "Give credit to Bedard. He pitched a great game. But I'm proud of our guys at the end, doing what they did. We were one pitch away from winning this game."

Bob Sherwin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.