SEATTLE -- Toward the end of August, when he was hovering around .500 with his record for the season, Gio Gonzalez told Oakland manager Bob Melvin he was going to win the rest of his starts.
He didn't quite accomplish that goal, but he came awfully close and put an impressive exclamation point on 2011.Gonzalez closed the season with flourish as the left-hander allowed just two hits in eight innings to help the Athletics beat the Seattle Mariners 2-0 on Wednesday night.Gonzalez finished the season with seven wins in his final eight starts. He went from having a 9-11 record after losing on Aug. 15 against Baltimore, to ending the season with a 16-12 mark, setting a career-high for wins."With Bob I always try and be as cocky as I can with him, but he's that type of manager," Gonzalez said. "He loves that kind of stuff, where he wants to see the competitor out of you."Gonzalez gave up one hit through six innings, a liner into right field by Chris Gimenez leading off the third. After following Gimenez's single with a walk to Ichiro Suzuki, Gonzalez retired 11 of the next 12 batters. He struck out the side in the sixth and finished with a career-high tying 11 strikeouts.Seattle's other hit was Alex Liddi's two-out double in the seventh that center fielder Coco Crisp nearly snagged with a diving backhand attempt.Gonzalez tied a career-high in strikeouts set last year against the Chicago White Sox and walked three batters. He had at least one strikeout in six of his eight innings and finished the season with a 3.12 ERA in 32 starts."To finish in the fashion that he did and pitch as well or better than he had all year, I think the last two starts might have been his best two starts of the year," Melvin said."I think he realizes now he has to set the bar a little bit higher for himself and take another step next year and try to win 20 games or raise the bar every year. The command gets better, the stuff gets better and as you can see his confidence gets better."Andrew Bailey pitched the ninth for his 24th save in 26 chances.The Mariners and A's will see each other again on March 28 and 29 in Tokyo as they will become the latest teams to open a season playing in Japan. The announcement of the two-game series was made Wednesday.Gonzalez could be starting one of those games for the A's after finishing 2011 on a roll. He won his final four starts to top the 15 wins he had in his rookie season of 2010.Jai Miller homered to right-center field in the second inning off Seattle starter Anthony Vasquez (1-6) who lasted just two innings.Miller came up from Triple-A Sacramento on Sept. 11, but displayed his power throughout the Pacific Coast League this season. Miller finished second in the PCL with 32 homers and was fourth in slugging percentage at .558. But he also led the PCL with 179 strikeouts, a feature he showed when he struck out in the fourth. Miller was robbed of extra bases in the seventh inning when Suzuki made a leaping catch on the warning track in right field."It's always good to leave a good taste with the people making the decisions ... and let them know I can come up here and help the team," Miller said.Seattle finished the season with a franchise record shutouts. They went scoreless in their final 20 innings, getting shut out in the final two games.It fit with Seattle's season-long struggles at the plate. Suzuki ended his year with 184 hits after going hitless in the finale. It's the first time in his 11-year career Suzuki failed to reach 200 hits and he ended the season with a career-low .272 batting average.Suzuki was evasive when asked about his season."I'll leave it to you guys," he said through his interpreter. "You are the professionals at evaluating."Vasquez was one of six Seattle pitchers in the finale. After Vasquez, Seattle's bullpen combined to give up three hits and no runs over the final seven innings.
Seattle finished the season with a crowd of 20,173. The Mariners unofficial season total was 1,896,929 in 81 home games. It's the first time since moving into Safeco Field the Mariners have failed to draw 2 million fans. The last time Seattle was under 2 million in a full 81-game home schedule was 1989. ... Gonzalez became the first A's pitcher to win five games in a month since July 2005 when Barry Zito won six and Rich Harden won five. Gonzalez was 5-1 in September. ... Seattle's previous record of 15 shutouts was set in 1978, 1983, 1990 and 2010. ... In one of the stranger pitching lines, Vasquez finished the season with 13 home runs allowed and 13 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings.