SEATTLE — Chris Smith’s teammates knew how to end his memorable night the right way.
Ryon Healy doubled home the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth Saturday and the A’s rang up a 4-3 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field. It was Oakland’s fourth win in its past five games, but the night undoubtedly belonged to Smith, the 36-year-old right-hander who became the oldest pitcher in franchise history to ever make his first major league start.
The journeyman more than his own, holding Seattle to three runs over six innings and allowing his team to position itself for the win late. He gave up six hits, struck out four and walked one, showing a nice ability to change speeds and keep the Mariners from barreling him up too often.
The bullpen did its job to lock this one down too, as Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle and Santiago Casilla combined for three scoreless innings to end it. Casilla allowed Mitch Haniger’s two-out double in the ninth that was just out of the reach of center fielder Rajai Davis, but he retired Jarrod Dyson — a thorn in the A’s side all night — on a fly ball to left to end it.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Smith became just the fourth pitcher over the last 55 years to make his first major league start at age 36 or greater.
Holding them in check: Smith kept the Mariners’ big boppers quiet. Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz went a combined 0-for-6 against the right-hander. Rather, it was the bottom and top of the order that got to him for three runs. Doubles from No. 8 hitter Dyson and leadoff man Jean Segura sparked a two-run rally in the third that tied the game 2-2. Then Dyson homered in the fifth to knot it up again, 3-3.
Nice round number: Yonder Alonso sent his 20th homer deep into the seats in right in the third. With 74 games left, the first-time All-Star has plenty of time to add to what is already a career season for him. Alonso joined Khris Davis as Oakland’s second 20-homer man of the season. Ryon Healy is right behind them with 19.
’D’ backs up Smith: The A’s issues defensively this season have been well-documented, but they made some strong plays in support of Smith. Marcus Semien made a nice back-handed play at short to get a force-out at second. Center fielder Jaycob Brugman ended the fifth with a terrific play, taking a twisting route to bring in Cruz’s liner that could have scored two.
Rajai rebounds: A night after he lost track of how many outs there were on a key play, Davis ignited the A’s go-ahead rally, beating out an infield single, stealing second and scoring on Healy’s double.
He’ll be back: Manager Bob Melvin said he had a good conversation with middle infielder Franklin Barreto as the A’s top prospect was optioned back to the minors Saturday.
“We know he’s gonna be a very impactful guy for us,” Melvin said before the game. “He knew what was going on. He knew he was the one going down today. The chore for him next time he’s up here is stay for good. My guess is that could be the case.”
If Jed Lowrie is dealt before the July 31 trade deadline, a strong likelihood, the A’s figure to bring Barreto back up and install him at second.