April 1, 2011 in Sports

Felix Hernandez goes distance as M’s win opener

Associated Press
 
Ben Margot photo

Seattle Mariners’ Felix Hernandez pitched the distance in the Mariners’ 6-2 victory over Oakland in a season opener.
(Full-size photo)

OAKLAND, Calif. — Felix Hernandez found his Cy Young form in a hurry, pitching a five-hitter for his 14th career complete game and the majors’ first this year, and the Seattle Mariners beat the A.L. West rival Oakland Athletics 6-2 on Friday night.

Chone Figgins hit a go-ahead solo home run in the sixth inning off loser Craig Breslow (0-1), Ichiro Suzuki singled twice, drove in a run and stole a pair of bases as the Mariners won their opener under first-year manager Eric Wedge to end a five-game losing streak in Oakland. Seattle spoiled the A’s opener played before a sellout crowd of 36,067 that included 1,000 standing-room only tickets. Suzuki moved within one hit of tying Edgar Martinez’s franchise hits record of 2,247.

Hernandez (1-0) dazzled after allowing Josh Willingham’s two-run, two-out homer in the first. King Felix faced the minimum in each of the next six innings, allowing only a leadoff single to David DeJesus in the fourth before Landon Powell’s base hit to begin the eighth.

Hernandez, who won the 2010 A.L. Cy Young Award despite only 13 victories, struck out five and didn’t walk a batter in a 108-pitch gem. The right-hander is now 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his four career opening-day outings.

The previous pitcher to throw a complete game on opening day was Ben Sheets for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to STATS LLC.

Willingham wasted little time showing why the A’s acquired him from Washington this winter to be their new cleanup hitter and upgrade an offense that managed only 109 homers and 663 runs last season, the team’s second fewest in the last 28 non-shortened seasons.

Willingham sent the second pitch he saw from Hernandez over the out-of-town scoreboard in left — the first opening-day homer allowed by Hernandez in his four career assignments. Willingham became the 10th player in Oakland history to hit a home run in his first at-bat with the A’s. Frank Thomas last did it on April 3, 2006.

Jack Cust scored an insurance run to start the Mariners’ three-run seventh, when Oakland committed two of its five errors. A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki gave everybody a scare when he went down writhing in pain after being clobbered by a scoring Miguel Olivo, but Suzuki stayed in the game to finish the inning before taking a seat with a mild left ankle sprain. Backup Powell replaced him to start the eighth.

Coincidentally, Oakland last committed five errors in a game on July 6, 2007, at home against Seattle. The A’s also had four errors during their season-opening 5-3 loss to the Mariners here on April 5 a year ago.

Trevor Cahill hung tough in his first career opening day start but labored and saw his pitch count climb in a hurry. The right-hander, an 18-game winner in his second full major league season last year, allowed one run on four hits in 4 2/3 innings, struck out eight and walked four.

Cahill escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth after consecutive errors by third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, who had his first career two-error game. Cahill left with runners on first and second with two out in the fifth — at 105 pitches.

New Oakland designated hitter Hideki Matsui went 0 for 3 and grounded into a double play in his Athletics debut and his ninth straight opening day start.

Mark Ellis, who matched his career best with a 13-game hitting streak to end last season, hit an eighth-inning single.

Hundreds of tailgaters took to the parking lot early on a spectacular spring day in the Bay Area, when first-pitch temperature was 64 degrees.

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