Cole Irvin and the Athletics have a very similar issue that goes hand-in-hand: Neither can seem to figure out the Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners beat the A's for the 10th straight time Monday night, handing Oakland a 13-4 loss at T-Mobile Park that officially eliminated the defending AL West champs from division contention.
For the fifth time in five starts against the Mariners, Irvin struggled. After pitching two scoreless innings, the lefty ran into trouble in the third inning when he gave up three earned runs. Then in the fourth, he walked the first two batters of the inning and manager Bob Melvin had no choice but to remove his starter.
Deolis Guerra proceeded to give up five runs while recording just one out. Two of those runs were charged to Irvin, who finished the night having allowed six hits, five earned runs and three walks in three-plus innings pitched. He struck out four and threw just 68 pitches.
After the loss, Irvin was extremely critical of himself, and referenced comments he made about the Mariners' lineup after his first start of the season against them on May 25.
"Well, it's plain and simple," Irvin said Monday on a video conference call. "Baseball has a way of humbling itself, and to be honest, it goes back to the comments I made earlier in the season. They're hungry every time they face me. They want to beat me into the ground and they did that every time I faced them. My job is to be able to go there and execute, make good pitches, and I feel like I have at times, but not enough when they want it more.
"Again, just wasn't good enough. It's embarrassing on my end. Deolis shouldn't even be in that situation. Walking two guys to lead off an inning, walking guys in general hasn't bode well for success for me and that's just how it is."
Following that May 25 start in which the Mariners pounded out 10 hits and scored four runs against Irvin in 4 2/3 innings, he disparaged the quality of their lineup.
“Bottom line is I wasn’t executing,” Irvin told reporters in May (H/T The San Francisco Chronicle). “I wasn’t executing in two-strike counts and at times I wasn’t getting ahead ... Yeah, there was a lot of weak contact and some swings that ended up being hits. But I think at the end of the day just pitch execution needs to be a lot better and a team like that should not be putting up 10 hits against me or anyone. I’m extremely disappointed in my efforts tonight.”
Based on Irvin's comments Monday, he hasn't forgotten about what he said about the Mariners and he's convinced Seattle players are using it to their advantage against him.
"I know three or four of those guys pretty well, played with them in past, dating back to high school days," Irvin said Monday. "There isn't many words said to me, if any. I know there's bad blood. I deserve it. I deserve the beating I've been getting by them all season long and I just haven't been able to figure it out. But my job is to pick up the pieces, like I said, and piece it together and make sure that when I do face them again, it's a new slate, clean slate.
"Yeah, of course, I said what I said. I regret it. I've thought about it every start, after poor performances, and it's just something ... I'm not like that, I don't say those types of things. But again, those words came out of my mouth and they were publicized so it is what it is. Now I've just got to put my best foot forward and share my personality. I don't mean any harm by those guys."
In five starts against the Mariners this season, Irvin now has allowed 35 hits and 19 earned runs in 19 2/3 innings. He only has 14 strikeouts in those five outings. Seattle handed Irvin five losses this season, something that hasn't been done since 1988.
But Irvin isn't the only one struggling with the Mariners. The A's now are 4-13 against Seattle with two games left against them this season. There are several factors why Oakland likely will miss the playoffs this season, but the a's inability to beat one of their division rivals is a pretty big reason.
"They're in the playoff race for a reason. They're a good club," Irvin said. "They find ways to win ballgames and they have a lot of success against us. I don't know what it's attributed to. On my end, I just haven't pitched well. I haven't even gotten past the fifth inning against these guys. They're competing against us. There's something about us they don't like, probably from my comments earlier in the year. So they've got more blood in the water and they're hungry. You can attribute it to what I said or even attribute it to bad pitches on my end. I don't know.
"I'm not particularly happy. All I can really do is [pick] up the pieces and get out of this lion's den and keep moving forward because the best I can do is trust in my faith, trust in the ability that I can go out and pitch every fifth day and that's what I've been doing all year. So there's no reason to question it. I just need to get back on the horse and get back to work."
Irvin should make one more start this season, and the good news for him is that it won't be against the Mariners. The bad news is that the start will come against the Astros, who have scored 13 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings against the lefty.
Irvin's first full season in the big league overall has been a success, but it's not ending on a good note.