OAKLAND, Calif. – Felix Hernandez sweated out most of the last three innings from the dugout, watching the seven-run lead he once held on the mound dissolve.
For a change, though, King Felix had room for error.
Chone Figgins finished a home run short of the cycle and every Seattle Mariners starter had a hit, overcoming a shaky outing from Hernandez and a late rally to beat the Oakland Athletics 8-7 on Saturday night. The drama was more than enough for the 2010 A.L. Cy Young Award to bear.
“It’s not going to happen again,” Hernandez said. “I’m not going to give up six runs.”
If Seattle can keep hitting like this, the staff ace might breathe easier.
Figgins’ two-run double off Bartolo Colon (1-1) highlighted a six-run fourth – helped by center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who misplayed a ball earlier in the inning – to give Seattle a 7-0 lead.
Ichiro Suzuki also had two hits and an RBI and Kyle Seager singled twice as the Mariners took the season-opening series 3-1, splitting the first two in Japan and taking both in Oakland.
“They’ve all been tough ballgames, tight ballgames and different types of ballgames. I think that’s a good indicator for us,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Cespedes atoned for his mistake with a three-run homer against reliever Steve Delabar, the third long ball in four games by the powerful Cuban defector. He also hit a towering shot to center a night earlier in his stateside debut.
Hernandez (1-0) gave up six runs on eight hits in 61/3 innings, striking out seven and walking one. Brandon League pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save this season, one of four Seattle relievers to hold off Oakland’s comeback.
Colon allowed seven runs on 10 hits in 51/3 innings, struggling to keep the ball down against a patient Mariners offense. He still seemed to be in control early, striking out three and walking none.
One misjudgment is all it took to spark the Seattle offense.
With a runner on first in the fourth, Cespedes broke in two steps on a line drive to center by Ichiro until he realized the ball was carrying fast in the thin Bay Area air. He hustled back, leaped for a catch and the ball clipped the top of his glove for a run-scoring triple that started a Seattle surge.
The Mariners sent 10 batters to the plate during the six-run inning. The last came when Figgins lined a two-run double to right that extended Seattle’s lead to 7-0.
This time, Oakland fought back.
Hernandez hit Cespedes in the back to load the bases in the bottom of the fourth, then forced three fly outs to end the inning. Seth Smith’s sacrifice fly to center put Oakland on the board.
Oakland’s Jemile Weeks sent a 0-1 fastball over the left-field fence in the fifth, and Kurt Suzuki doubled to drive in a pair of runs in the sixth, slicing Seattle’s lead to 8-4 after Michael Saunders hit a solo home run in the top of the inning.
Hernandez was lifted with an out in the seventh after allowing a pair of singles.
Cespedes clobbered a three-run homer to right-center off Delabar to bring Oakland with a run. But the A’s never put another runner on base over the final seven outs.
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