Mariners' bullpen wastes six scoreless innings by Washburn in loss

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Although the Oakland Athletics' entire scoring output was confined to one inning of singles and walks, they were enough to get past the Seattle Mariners.

And though a three-game winning streak isn't much, it's the best run of a tough season for Jason Giambi and his A's.

Giambi's two-run single capped a four-run seventh inning, and Oakland shook its offensive woes just long enough to rally for a 4-3 victory Tuesday night.

The A's have the majors' worst slugging percentage and fewest extra-base hits among their various statistical lowlights, yet they mounted a winning rally exclusively with small ball. Giambi has struggled to get his average above .220 during his return to the Bay Area, but he swung aggressively at the first pitch from Seattle reliever Mark Lowe -- and as he reached first base, his first thought wasn't about his RBIs.

"It was nice to be able to answer for Dallas Braden," said Giambi, who struck out with the bases loaded in the first inning. "He's been pitching great, and we haven't been giving him any support. ... I was just grateful to get another at-bat with guys on base. I was ready to hit the first pitch, and luckily it was a strike."

Braden (4-5) was unexpectedly rewarded for battling through seven innings of nine-hit ball when his teammates pounded Miguel Batista (2-1) and Lowe, who wasted six scoreless innings by Jarrod Washburn with stunning speed.

After retiring his first batter, Batista yielded two singles -- including Orlando Cabrera's hit to score Oakland's first run -- and walked two before Lowe replaced him with the bases loaded. He got Jack Cust on a fly to center, but Matt Holliday drew a run-scoring walk before Giambi singled with two outs.

"It all fell apart," Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said. "We got into trouble with Miguel, then Lowe came in and got the pop up, then lost his command a little bit. The one pitch to Giambi was the ballgame."

Oakland has won two straight over Seattle after losing five of the clubs' first six meetings.

After two Oakland relievers pitched the eighth, Andrew Bailey and his 98-mph fastball finished for his second save in four chances.

Ichiro Suzuki extended his hitting streak to 20 games with a run-scoring single in the seventh, and Mike Sweeney and Russell Branyan drove in first-inning runs in the Mariners' fourth loss in six games. That rally could have been bigger, but Sweeney -- who hit an RBI double moments earlier -- fell down while rounding third base because of back spasms that forced him out of the game moments later.

"It crushes me, because Wash pitched a great game, and as the score turned out, we needed that run," said Sweeney, who expects to be ready to play by Friday.

The loss capped a discouraging day for the Mariners, who put catcher Kenji Johjima on the disabled list with a broken toe in another blow to their own struggling offense.

Until the A's unlikely rally, Braden appeared headed for yet another hard-luck loss. The left-hander received more than one run of support just three times in his first nine starts, and the A's showed nothing against Seattle until their last chance to reward him.

"I can't worry about how our offense is doing," Braden said. "I basically play defense. Our offense is a non-factor. ... We've all been playing ball for a while. We all know what a streak feels like, but we don't want to get too excited about it."

In a start pushed back from Saturday because of soreness in his left knee, Washburn gave up six hits and left with a 3-0 lead. Despite consistently shutting down the A's struggling lineup, Washburn is winless in six starts since April 21.

"I was able to fight through the first inning, and the second was a little better," said Washburn, who had been off the mound since early last week because of the injury. "It hurts warming up, and it hurts on my last pitch. If it stays at this level, I can deal with it. It had been getting gradually worse every start this year."

Game notes
Nomar Garciaparra was scratched from the A's lineup shortly before game time. The veteran slugger returned from the disabled list Friday after a calf injury. ... The Mariners recalled Guillermo Quiroz from Double-A to back up Johnson. Quiroz has played 95 games for four major league teams in his short career.

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