For all of the fanfare surrounding Opening Day, fans of the Oakland Athletics were left with an all too familiar feeling upon leaving the Coliseum Monday night: disappointment.
The A’s were excited to get back in front of the fans that sent them off with a standing ovation following last year’s loss to the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS, but unfortunately they had to go up against one of the best pitchers in baseball in Felix Hernandez to open the 2013 season.
King Felix showed exactly why the Seattle Mariners signed him to a seven-year, $175 million contract against the Oakland Athletics on Opening Day, masterfully mixing his pitches to record eight strikeouts, three hits and one walk over 7.2 innings and lead his club to a 2-0 win to start off the season.
Hernandez didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning, when former teammate John Jaso smacked a double to the left-center gap to become the first baserunner of the season for the A’s. Hernandez had a clubhouse employee deliver a Rolex to Jaso prior to the game to commemorate his perfect game that Jaso caught last season, and he responded by breaking up the pitcher’s latest bid for perfection.
Brett Anderson did as best he could to keep pace for Oakland, going seven innings and striking out six, but at times he had trouble locating pitches as he allowed four hits and four walks. For the most part you’d say it was a solid outing, and he got some great defense from the infield to help his cause, but unfortunately when you’re going up against someone as talented as Hernandez, one or two mistakes can be your downfall, and that’s exactly what happened against the Mariners Monday night.
The two runs of the game came in the top of the fifth inning following a walk to Dustin Ackley, who was then advanced to third by a single to right field from Brendan Ryan that turned into a double when Josh Reddick unsuccessfully tried to throw Ackley out as he went for third. In the next at-bat, Franklin Gutierrez hit a hanging curveball up the middle to center field to score both base runners for the Mariners, and that proved to be the difference in the game.
Oakland nearly came back in the eighth when Seth Smith sparked a two-out rally with a double off of Hernandez down the right field line. Following a walk to Eric Sogard, Seattle manager Eric Wedge brought in left-hander Charlie Furbush to face Coco Crisp, who then walked to load the bases. Bob Melvin then brought in Derek Norris to pinch hit for Jaso, and after working the count to 2-0 Norris fouled off a pitch before grounding out to second to end the inning.
That would be the best chance the A’s had to score, and although Jed Lowrie drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the ninth, Brandon Moss wasn’t able to keep it going as he popped out to right field to end the game.
While it may appear as if the A’s underachieved in this game, it’s a tall task to take on King Felix when he’s on his game, and he certainly was tonight. Brett Anderson pitched pretty well except for few walks that he’d like to have back, but that could easily be attributable to Opening Day jitters, and Melvin wasn’t going to place the blame for the loss on Anderson’s shoulders, especially considering the lack of offensive output from the team as a whole.
The loss makes it nine straight on Opening Day for the Athletics, the longest such streak in American League history. Five of those losses have come against Felix Hernandez and the Mariners. Luckily for Oakland, there’s a steep drop-off in quality when it comes to the rest of Seattle’s pitching staff, and it shouldn’t be nearly as difficult to garner offense tomorrow against Hisashi Iwakuma. Jarrod Parker will pitch for the A’s as the two teams meet again at 7:05 PST Tuesday night.