SEATTLE -- The baseball season will be two weeks old Sunday, and it seems as if the sport is oddly different.
The A's beat the Mariners 3-1 Saturday night, and they got the usual good pitching from Sonny Gray and the bullpen and some timely hitting.
But two transfer plays, plays that would have been routine outs in the past, had the A's a little off balance.
In the third inning and again in the sixth, Mariners left fielder Dustin Ackley dropped the ball transferring it from his glove to his throwing hand. The new interpretation of that is it's not an out, much to the general dismay.
"I don't like it,'' third baseman Josh Donaldson said. He was forced to go back to first base in the third when Brandon Moss' fly to left was caught, then not, by Ackley. Moss was credited with an RBI single, then was called out for having passed Donaldson, who thought the ball had been caught and who was retreating to first base as Moss was rounding the bag.
"I've been playing baseball for over 20 years, and that's always been an out,'' said Donaldson, whose two-run, first-inning homer was the decisive blow for Oakland. "It's similar to football where you have to catch the ball, then come down with your feet before it's a catch.
"When the ball's in the glove, it's a catch.''
The sixth inning saw Ackley put to the test again, He caught an otherwise routine liner hit by Yoenis Cespedes, then dropped the ball as he went to get it out of his glove. Cespedes never saw it, and first base coach Tye Waller didn't notice it, either. So Cespedes was trotting back to the dugout with his head down, and he didn't see the entire A's roster up on the top step exhorting him to get back to first base.
He never did.
"It was like Little League, yelling, 'Go back; Go back,' '' manager Bob Melvin said.
He was laughing as he said it, but Melvin is clearly troubled by the new interpretation of the rules.
"That's hard. Instinctively, you've played for so long a certain way, and now you have to look over your shoulder,'' Melvin said. "Donaldson was just trying to get back, and now all of a sudden the umpire is saying 'No catch.' You're going to see a lot of that this year.''
The rule was put in primarily for the force play at second base now that new replay and reviews of plays are part of the game. But the rules don't specify that play only, so everybody has to catch the ball and get it cleanly out of the glove.
"We're seeing some funny plays because your instincts take over,'' Melvin said. "We're seeing a lot of different areas with replays and some of the new rules where guys have to reteach themselves how to look at things, and it's going to take a while.''
The Cespedes play, where the hitter and the base coach needed to be more alert, was just a mistake. But Donaldson didn't make a mistake as much as he was playing by old school rules.
"We're going to have to address it by (saying) 'any time you're going back, you have to look over your shoulder and make sure that the guy has made the transfer.' '' Melvin said. "It's easy to say. It's tougher to do.''
This time at least, the confusion wrought by the rules didn't have an impact on the game's outcome. Gray was his usual sturdy self, allowing one run in seven innings to the Mariners, against whom he is now 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA. For the season, he's allowed two earned runs in three starts for a 0.95 ERA.
"This was the best start so far,'' Gray said. He gave up a first-inning run but at one point retired 11 in succession and didn't have to pitch out of trouble much. The A's bullpen contributed four outs from Sean Doolittle and two from Luke Gregerson, Gregerson getting the save.
"He came to me after BP yesterday and said 'I'm ready,' " Melvin said. "That's all I needed to hear from him. He is pretty aware of his body, he has played through some injuries, and he knows what is more serious than others. I rely on what he has to tell me and that feedback.''
A's (Scott Kazmir 2-0) at Seattle (Chris Young 0-0), 1:10 p.m. CSNCA
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Luke Gregerson is congratulated by A's catcher Derek Norris after allowing two hits in the ninth before earning the save.