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Pomeranz shuts down Mariners in first start

OAKLAND -- There was nothing sexy about the A's 2-0 win over the Mariners in the nightcap of Wednesday's doubleheader, but it was perhaps bigger than any of the other 19 the A's have this year.

Riding a three-game losing streak and an even longer one at home, spanning six games, the A's entered the matchup short-staffed, despite having a 26th man in righty Arnold Leon.

Center fielder Coco Crisp had exited the fourth inning of the first game with a strained neck. Reliever Ryan Cook had departed with a forearm strain in the seventh. The A's had finally beaten up on Felix Hernandez, yet had nothing to show for it, and the Mariners were one win away from not only securing a four-game sweep but a first-place standing in the American League West.

Disheartened but not down, the A's turned to lefty long man Drew Pomeranz and asked 70 pitches of him. He needed only 68 to give them five shutout innings of two-hit ball in his first start since July 22 last year with the Rockies.

"You couldn't have expected any more than that," said manager Bob Melvin. "Pretty fantastic for a guy that hasn't started a game for us."

Oakland acquired Pomeranz in the offseason in exchange for lefty Brett Anderson with the knowledge that he could serve as a swing man. The southpaw posted a 1.98 ERA in nine relief outings before getting the start on Wednesday, which may have doubled as an audition for a permanent rotation spot.

Nos. 4 and 5 starters Dan Straily (4.93 ERA) and Tommy Milone (5.86) have struggled, and the A's decision to stretch out Pomeranz leaves open the possibility he could replace one of them at some point -- though Melvin isn't ready to say either way.

"We're just trying to digest this win after losing three in a row," he said.

Pomeranz, who struck out five and walked none, had not won a game as a starter since Sept. 26, 2012.

"I tried to keep my same approach out there, really," said Pomeranz. "Just come into the game and attack hitters. I was trying to stay ahead of guys and was throwing my curveball for strikes, locating my fastball pretty well, and I threw some good changeups."

It was the first time this year Pomeranz had used his changeup in a game.

Dan Otero followed Pomeranz and was equally impressive. Otero, who tossed 11 pitches in the first game, threw 30 in the second while recording three scoreless innings to keep the A's lead intact.

Oakland got on the board against righty Erasmo Ramirez in the third on back-to-back hits from Craig Gentry and Jed Lowrie. Yoenis Cespedes' second homer in as many days and sixth of the year extended the A's lead in the fourth.

Jim Johnson received his first save opportunity since losing the closer's role a month ago and responded with a perfect ninth.

"We didn't score a whole lot, but just enough," said Melvin. "Three guys took over on the pitching end for us and came up huge. Basically all we had were those three guys and Leon. And they all knew it. It ended up being a much nicer feeling after the second game than the first."

"Curt asked me before the game how I was, and I told him I was ready for a normal workload," said Otero. "At the end of the sixth, I knew I had at least another. Then I had a quick inning and thought, maybe another one. You're trying to do anything you can to get outs and get that win and end this losing streak at home we knew we had. I'm glad it's over with.

Of Pomeranz, Otero said, "He's a beast."

"We've been hearing rumors the last couple of days that he might be starting this game, and his number gets called, and he did probably better than anyone could have expected," Otero said of Pomeranz. "With that pitch count, it's tough to get to five, but he really helped out our pitching staff."

"It was a long day," said Melvin. "After you lose the first one in the fashion we did, it's pretty demoralizing, but you have to go out for the second game, and this team's been pretty resilient over the years."

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