By RICK EYMER
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - A night that began with much promise ended nightmarishly for the Oakland Athletics.
Josh Donaldson and Nate Freiman each hit home runs in the first inning as the A's scored four times. It all went downhill from there in a 7-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.
Catcher Derek Norris, who also drove in a run for the A's, finished the game on the training table in the clubhouse with a fractured left toe.
Norris was injured trying to block the plate in an eighth inning that saw the A's bullpen implode.
Nick Franklin just beat a throw home and caught a spike on Norris' cleats that ripped a gash in his left knee. Norris' toe took most of the contact, leading to the fracture.
"It's been tough for our catchers here lately," Donaldson said. "Dino has struggled with his back thing and now he fractures his toe. I don't know, we'll see how it plays out."
The A's John Jaso, who shared catching duties with Norris, has been on the disabled list since July 25 with a concussion. Oakland needs to find a second catcher quickly, as Wednesday is getaway day.
"DL him? I'm not sure," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "But there was an X-ray and there was a fracture."
Even with a solid defensive catcher in Stephen Vogt the A's can ill afford to lose another top line player.
"What he does behind the plate is special," said A's reliever Ryan Cook, who threw two wild pitches, each scoring a run, in the eighth. "He's an integral part of this team. What he does on the mound with us is special."
Sean Doolittle (4-5) allowed hits to all four batters he faced in the eighth as the A's dropped 1 1/2 games behind the AL West-leading Texas Rangers.
"I wasn't walking guys, but I was leaving stuff over the plate," said Doolittle, a converted first baseman. "We made a mess of things. It's not the right time of year to have an inning like that."
Cook had not allowed a run in 20 of his previous 21 games and entered the game with a 1.95 ERA.
Oakland rookie Sonny Gray threw seven solid innings, giving up two runs and two hits. He walked two and struck out seven.
The A's used three pitchers, who needed 53 pitches, to get through the eighth. Doolittle has allowed six runs over his past four appearances, a span of 2 2-3 innings.
"We don't see that often. That surprises everybody," Melvin said. "But you're going to have some games you don't get it done and that's what happened. They had some good at-bats, strung some hits together and it happened pretty quickly."
The A's scored all their runs within the first five batters of the game.
Jed Lowrie led off with a triple and scored on Norris' single. Donaldson followed with his 18th home run. After Yoenis Cespedes grounded out, Freiman hit a solo shot.
Franklin hit a two-run home run in the third to bring Seattle within 4-2.
Gray took care of the rest, retiring 13 of the final 14 batters he faced. He's thrown at least six innings in all three of his starts.
Gray had a 13-inning scoreless streak snapped when Franklin homered.
Saunders gave up half of his hits in the first inning, settling in to keep Seattle within striking distance. He got double plays in three successive innings to keep the A's off the scoreboard.
NOTES: A's OF Coco Crisp (sore left wrist) was available off the bench, but Melvin said he didn't want him to get more than one at-bat right-handed. He's scheduled to play Wednesday. ... A's LHP Brett Anderson is expected to throw about 65 pitches in his rehab start Thursday in Stockton. Melvin hinted it could be his last rehab, though he would not commit either way. ... A's IF Alberto Callaspo went 3 for 4 and is 18 for 29 with seven RBIs against the Mariners this season.
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