SEATTLE -- Oakland's starting staff can only do so much to help out a streaky offense that often doesn't do much at all.
A's hitters, who embarked on their road swing through Seattle and Texas having plated at least four runs in five of their previous six games, have stumbled in the first two contests against the Mariners, combining for just three runs next to 25 strikeouts in that span.
On Tuesday, when lefty Travis Blackley was again impressive, the A's fanned 14 times, with five coming in the first two innings against Mariners southpaw Jason Vargas, who struck out 10 total in Oakland's 3-2 loss.
"That's a lot of strikeouts," manager Bob Melvin said. "We don't typically strike out that much. This wasn't our finest hour, the last two days offensively. You give him some credit, but we probably didn't have our best at-bats of the month today."
"To come in against a team like San Francisco's pitching staff and swing the bats well, maybe it was an extra bit of adrenaline with the rivalry going," Josh Reddick said. "You come in here and I think we were pretty confident facing a pitching staff like this -- not saying anything against them, we had just been swinging the bats pretty well. It's just how the game goes at certain stretches."
By night's end, it was Brendan Ryan's go-ahead RBI single in the eighth off right-hander Jim Miller that proved the difference. But Miller, who had not allowed a run in his past six games, couldn't take the blame for an Oakland offense that, for a second straight night, tallied more strikeouts than hits.
"We've been, for the month, swinging the bat really well," Melvin said. "We're not going to score six, seven, eight runs every game, but our at-bats, even in the Giants series, seemed to have a bit more intensity to them."
The A's wiped away a two-run deficit by scoring a pair of runs in the seventh, courtesy of Yoenis Cespedes' eighth homer of the season and a two-out RBI single off the bat of Jonny Gomes. But they also stranded two in the frame and two more in the eighth, leaving Blackley with a no-decision despite an impressive effort.
The potential threat in the inning came to end when Brandon Inge struck out for the third time of the night, the last coming against Brandon League with runners on first and second. The A's third baseman is now just 6-for-38 (.158) over his past 11 games.
"He threw him some pretty good pitches down and in," Melvin said. "Even when he's struggling some, he has pretty good at-bats against a left-hander. But I said all along, we don't expect him to hit .350, and he's going to have some struggles at the plate like anybody else. He may just not be seeing the ball as well at this point as he was earlier."
Blackley went seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits with one walk and three strikeouts in an 88-pitch performance. He has now allowed just three runs and 13 hits over his past three starts spanning 21 innings.
Blackley was hoping to make it 22 innings, but a stiff back that has come and gone over the past year prevented him from coming out for the eighth, though he noted it's no cause for alarm.
"I didn't have a great handle on anything, I just mixed my pitches up well," Blackley said. "There wasn't one particular pitch, really, that was doing much damage. They were lifting my sinker, and I wasn't getting the ground balls I've been after. I think it was just a good mix and a couple of fortunate flights of the ball. My changeup, really, was the pitch I relied on late. It's probably my fourth-best pitch, but I was able to keep it out of the power zone and get some weak contact on it."
"With the injuries right now, he's the guy, to an extent, we're kind of leaning on to give us performances like that," Melvin said. "He certainly gave us a chance to win. We just didn't do anything early on."