OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Mike Zunino tried making adjustments when he went into a batting slump.
When that didn’t work, the Seattle Mariners catcher went back to what just felt natural, and so far that’s paid off.
Zunino had two key hits and Ketel Marte hit a tiebreaking single in the ninth inning as the Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics 3-2 Sunday for their fifth straight win.
The Mariners remained 3 ½ games behind in the AL wild-card race.
Marte had three hits and Zunino homered and doubled.
“I tried to make some little tweaks to try to improve on what I was doing and they sort of took me in the wrong direction, so it was just sort of going back to what was working the whole year,” Zunino said.
“It was nice, because when you have so many at-bats and taken that swing so many times it was pretty easy to go back to it,” he said.
Zunino doubled off Ryan Madson (5-5) to begin the ninth and pinch runner Ben Gamel moved up on a single by Leonys Martin. Marte followed with his go-ahead single.
“We had a decent report on him saying the first pitch is usually the best pitch to get, so I didn’t want to waste any time,” Zunino said. “I was able to get on top of it and drive it.”
Mariners starter James Paxton pitched through a fingernail injury for his first quality start in more than a month, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks in six innings.
The left-hander couldn’t throw his cut fastball and didn’t have good command of his fastball because of a problem with the nail on his left middle finger.
“We worked around it well, though,” Paxton said of the injury. “We used the curveball more, and the curveball was really good today, so that was good. And we used the change-up a little bit more too, got some swings and misses on that also.”
Zunino hit a two-run homer in the second off rookie Raul Alcantara. He left with two outs in the sixth to an ovation from fans and was greeted by fist bumps in the A’s dugout.
“It was just another at-bat where I felt like I got to two strikes pretty quick, but he showed me the slider early and I was able to lay off of it, and he threw another one that was in the zone and up. I was just able to get up in the zone and barrel it.”
In his major league debut Wednesday, he became the first A’s pitcher to hit three batters and issue a balk in one game since Howard Ehmke did it in 1930.
Alcantara allowed two runs on seven hits, one walk and a hit batsman.
“He has an electric fastball, his changeup is a plus pitch and he threw some good breaking balls, too,” A’s catcher Stephen Vogt said. “I think the stuff is really, really good, it’s definitely an indication of what we thought and what I thought going into this week it would be.”
Steve Cishek (3-6) pitched a scoreless eighth. Edwin Diaz closed for his 15th save.
Mariners: 1B Adam Lind left the in the fifth inning with a finger sprain, manager Scott Servais said. “It’s not broke,” Servais said. “He had X-rays. He could be out a couple days and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Athletics: RHP Sonny Gray, on the disabled list since Aug. 7 with a right forearm strain, threw about 10-12 pitches off a mound on Sunday, A’s manager Bob Melvin said. The 2015 All-Star is hoping to be activated before the end of the year, but Melvin said the A’s will be cautious before making such a move.
“It’d be nice to get him into a game, but I wouldn’t say it’s the most important thing in the world,” Melvin said. “His health is the most important thing for us.”
Mariners: LHP Ariel Miranda will pitch the opener of a three-game series in Anaheim. He will be facing the Angels for the third time in his eighth appearance and seventh start with Seattle since being acquired from Baltimore on July 31. Miranda is 1-0 with a 5.73 ERA in two previous outings against the Angels.
Athletics: LHP Ross Detwiler will be making his sixth start since being called up from Triple-A Nashville on Aug. 10 in a series opener in Kansas City. He allowed one run in seven innings of three-hit ball in his last start on Aug. 31.
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