Blanton falters in fifth in loss to Seattle

Blanton falters in loss to Mariners

OAKLAND -- Joe Blanton's recent string of pitching performances pretty much sums up the game of baseball -- the whole thought that the 162-game season sits on a never-ending roller-coaster ride.

In fact, the right-hander's starts can even be characterized by one of baseball's most memorable movie quotes, said by "Nuke" LaLoosh in the popular 1988 film "Bull Durham."

"Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains," he said.

It's a simple notion, really -- one that rang true yet again for Blanton as his up-and-down season continued Wednesday night against the Mariners. On this occasion, it was a less-than-stellar outing that resulted in six runs on nine hits in six innings, as the A's fell, 6-4, in front of 21,128 at McAfee Coliseum.

The loss represented No. 12 for Blanton, which means he has already tied his career high in defeats -- all coming before the All-Star break. It also matched San Francisco's Barry Zito for most losses in the majors. So what gives?

"It's always hard to put a finger on it when he pitches so well," manager Bob Geren said. "Almost all of his innings have been positive except for a couple."

Those couple, though, have given way to more than a couple of runs. Wednesday's loss came after a brilliant one-run outing in his last start in Chicago. Before that, he gave up seven runs against the Giants, which followed a one-run showing against the Phillies. Despite the inconsistent results that are obvious to Blanton, his batterymate believes his pitches are actually consistent.

"I thought he threw the ball wall," catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "He was giving us a chance to win. He went six innings, and that says a lot."

However, it was the fifth frame that proved the difference. Given a 4-1 lead heading into the fifth inning, thanks to a solo home run by Jack Cust in the second and a three-run double off the bat of Donnie Murphy in the fourth, Blanton unfolded after breezing through the first four innings.

He went through the entire Mariners lineup en route to giving up five runs in the inning, including a bases-clearing double by Jose Lopez, to make it a 6-4 game. And even though the sixth run had no say in the ballgame, it was that final run that resulted in a little controversy between home-plate umpire Mark Wegner and the Oakland bench.

With Raul Ibanez on second and Adrian Beltre at the plate, Beltre singled on a ground ball to first baseman Daric Barton, who threw the ball to third baseman Jack Hannahan. The Mariners' left fielder was already rounding third, though, forcing Hannahan to fire the ball to Suzuki, who blocked the plate in a convincing manner only to watch Wegner call Ibanez safe.

"I didn't look and see where I was at the plate, but I thought I got him," Suzuki said. "You can't argue too much because it is what it is."

It was, according to Geren, "one of the best plays I've ever seen by a catcher" -- so good, in fact, that both Suzuki and the skipper got their fair share of words in with Wegner.

"It was a bang-bang play," Blanton said. "You always want the call to go your way, but sometimes it doesn't."

That tune is getting a little tiring for Blanton, though.

"It's just one of those things that when those big innings get going, I'm not losing focus or feeling pressure," he said. "It's just some innings I get big pitches and others I don't.

"I'm beating myself and not making good pitches when I need to."

Blanton has yet to win back-to-back starts this year, prompting shake after shake of his head after every other outing.

"I want to string two wins together," he said. "Tonight we had momentum, then they got it, then we had it, and then I gave it right back to them. I basically didn't do my job tonight."

Suzuki, along with Geren, put on a positive spin when talking about Blanton. They believe he is just one of those tough-luck pitchers catching bad break after bad break this season.

"Whenever he takes the mound," Suzuki said, "I'm 100 percent confident he can get the win."

Jane Lee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.