SEATTLE (AP) — Jon Lester could not find his command. There was no one pitch he could lean on or one side of the plate he could hit with any consistency.
And still the Oakland lefty managed to throw six shutout innings on Sunday and help the Athletics extend their lead in the AL wild-card race.
“These games sometimes mean more than the games you go out there and kind of walk through the lineup,” Lester said.
Sam Fuld and Brandon Moss hit solo home runs, Lester combined with three relievers on a seven-hitter and Oakland beat the Seattle Mariners 4-0.
Oakland won consecutive games for the first time in three weeks and, more importantly, stretched its edge for a playoff spot. The A’s now hold a 1½-game advantage over Kansas City and a 2½-game lead over the Mariners.
Coupled with winning on Saturday night when Seattle’s Felix Hernandez got the start, the A’s understood the importance in taking two of three at this point in the season.
“We talked about it last night. That’s the type of game that can give you a better feeling than most based on the fact we got a game against Felix Hernandez,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “We got on the board early, we were a little stagnant there in the middle innings, but we were able to add on some at the end.”
Fuld’s fourth homer barely cleared the right-field wall in the first inning off Chris Young (12-8). It was Oakland’s only hit until sixth inning. Moss hit his 24th homer leading off the seventh, his first home run since July 24. Fuld and Adam Dunn both added an RBI singles in the eighth inning as Oakland stretched its lead.
Lester (15-10) struggled to get through six innings. Seattle had baserunners in every inning except the sixth and could never get a hit with someone in scoring position.
Seattle was 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position against Lester. Austin Jackson was at third base with one out in the first and was stranded. Chris Denorfia was also left at third in the third inning.
Lester threw 101 pitches and walked four, but allowed just four hits and struck out seven in picking up his fifth victory since being traded from Boston to the A’s.
“Anytime you have a start like this and are able to keep your team in it ... give them a chance to get in the dugout with a lead is huge,” Lester said.
Dan Otero took over for Lester in the seventh and immediately gave up singles to pinch-hitters Endy Chavez and Logan Morrison, and a wild pitch advanced the pair to second and third with no outs. Jackson grounded out to first and pinch-hitter Michael Saunders struck out on three pitches. Otero intentionally walked Robinson Cano to load the bases and got Kendrys Morales to pop out to left to end the threat.
Seattle finished 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base.
“We had a lot of opportunities. That’s the good part of it,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said.
Moss had gone 39 games without a home run, a surprising drought after he hit 21 homers before the All-Star break. His 24 homers are second on the A’s roster behind Josh Donaldson.
“I was probably putting a little pressure on him with my home run total,” Fuld joked.
Athletics: C Geovany Soto left Friday’s game with back spasms but is expected to be ready for Tuesday’s series opener with Texas.
Mariners: OF Dustin Ackley was already going to get Sunday off and not face Lester, but it also helped in managing his sore left foot. Ackley didn’t play on Saturday and McClendon hopes the two days off will lead to the soreness disappearing.
Athletics: After their final day off of the regular season, the A’s will start Scott Kazmir (14-8) in the opener against Texas on Tuesday night. Oakland shuffled its rotation and will have Kazmir, followed by Jeff Samardzija and Sonny Gray.
Mariners: Seattle begins a rugged 11-game road trip on Monday night against the Angels with Hiashi Iwakuma (14-7) pitching the opener of the four-game series. After four with the Angels, the Mariners go to Houston for three games and close the trip with four in Toronto.