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Originally published September 9, 2012 at 4:16 PM | Page modified September 9, 2012 at 10:37 PM

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Oakland completes sweep as Mariners waste chances in 4-2 loss

Oakland's Jonny Gomes hit a three-run homer off Jason Vargas and the Mariners lost despite outhitting the A's 9-5.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Jason Vargas didn't fret as much about the at-bat that sank him, compared to the one two batters earlier.

Vargas and the Mariners lost 4-2 to the Oakland Athletics Sunday afternoon at Safeco Field largely because of a three-run homer by Jonny Gomes in the fifth inning.

But Vargas wasn't as irked by that as the two-out curveball he had thrown a couple of batters earlier to Adam Rosales that was laced for a single to keep the inning going.

Coco Crisp followed with a single before Gomes ripped a pitch off the upper deck in left to help the A's complete a three-game sweep in which Seattle's offense deserted its mound men once again.

"I feel like I'm more than capable of getting him out with my other two pitches," Vargas said of his 2-2 offering to Rosales. "It's just one of those things you learn from and you tip your hat."

Vargas didn't make many more mistakes in his seven innings, though the Gomes blast was enough. Josh Donaldson added a solo homer in the eighth off Josh Kinney to close out the scoring in front of 14,403.

Kyle Seager hit a solo homer for Seattle in the sixth off Oakland starter Tommy Milone after Michael Saunders drove in the Mariners' first run with a triple in the fifth.

But a lack of finish on offense again plagued the Mariners, who have gone 19 straight games in which all of their scoring has happened in just one or two innings. The Mariners are 9-10 over that stretch, but just 1-8 versus teams that are .500 or better.

"It's just tough when we don't loosen things up offensively," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "That's what's happening when you're laying on every pitch like that."

Wedge has said he prefers when the Mariners can score in at least three innings. Teams that do that increase the odds of scoring four or more runs — which is needed to win the typical game — as long as there are multiple runs in one of the three innings. The Mariners again battled in their at-bats and put runners on-base — out-hitting Oakland 9-5 — but couldn't finish the job.

Milone fanned 10 in six innings to limit the damage by the Mariners' hits.

Seattle has struggled to get big hits at various times all season. But Wedge said this isn't a case of the team reverting to first-half habits.

"The at-bats are much more competitive and obviously, we're getting our fair share of hits most of the time," Wedge said. "But putting innings together, or more important for me, finishing off innings — I think I've said that too many times this year. And that's what I'm not seeing."

The Mariners had two on with one out in the fourth inning of a scoreless game, only to have Casper Wells fly out and Mike Carp strike out. Saunders was at third after his triple made it a 3-1 game in the fifth, but Jesus Montero went down swinging to end that threat.

Pinch-hitter John Jaso opened the ninth with a double, but was stranded at second base.

"We've gotten runners in scoring position, runners on base," Saunders said. "We kind of missed those key hits. Oakland typically runs out good pitchers year-in and year-out. When you run into a good pitcher — a guy who's locating the ball well, mixing the off-speed and keeping you off-balance — sometimes, you're going to have trouble hitting those guys."

The Mariners were outscored 16-4 in the series and 37-16 on the homestand.

Wedge admitted that it is a challenge to keep the lineup producing with so many new faces daily. The Mariners rested regulars Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak on Sunday, though Ackley was used as a pinch-hitter.

Wedge said it's important to rest players this time of year, but added that he plans to use mainly the regulars who have been here all season.

"Make no mistake about it, we're in the business of winning ballgames," Wedge said. "We still have twenty-something odd games to go and I look at them all as very important to us."

And to win more — especially against contenders — the Mariners will have to figure out how to score more often.

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com.

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