King Felix reigns in opener, as usual

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OAKLAND, Calif. -- Seattle Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez is making a habit of ruining Opening Day for the Oakland A's.

Hernandez, starting his first game since signing a $175 million, seven-year contract in February, threw a gem Monday night at the Coliseum.

Hernandez gave up just three hits over 7 2/3 scoreless innings, leading the Mariners to a 2-0, season-opening win over the A's. He struck out eight and walked just one against the defending American League West champions.

"It feels good," said Hernandez, who earned his 99th career win. "It feels pretty good. It's Opening Day, you've got to start the right way with a win. It was very special."

Based on recent Opening Day history for the A's and Mariners -- especially with Hernandez on the mound -- the outcome was predictable.

The A's lost their ninth straight season opener, setting an American League record and tying the major league record they now share with the Atlanta Braves (1972-80) and New York Giants (1893-1901).

The Mariners, meanwhile, won their team-record seventh straight opener.

"It's disappointing to lose on Opening Night," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It's your first look. You have everybody out. The fans are out in full force. We've played well with our big crowds in stadiums for the better part of last year, so it's disappointing. ...

"Typically you do get somebody's ace, and Felix is one of the best in the game. We just couldn't muster anything off him."

Hernandez made his sixth Opening Day start -- he tied Randy Johnson for the Seattle record -- five of those against the A's. He improved to 4-0 overall in those season openers and 3-0 against the A's, who have lost all five times to the Mariners in Hernandez's starts in that stretch.

Despite his success on Opening Day against the A's, Hernandez didn't lack motivation.

"Well, they boo me," he said of the A's fans. "I said, 'OK, got to do my job.' And I knew those people in Seattle were watching the game. Got to do a good job."

Thousands of Mariners fans showed up for an open house at Safeco Field, where they watched the opener on the stadium's new big screen.

"It is a bit redundant that we see him as often as we do," Melvin said of Hernandez, "but he pitches great. He was pretty unpredictable tonight. Maybe not the best velocity on his fastball that we've seen in the past, but he's been able to in recent years without (hitting) 95, 96 (mph), throw any pitch in any count. He keeps you off-balance and reads swings very well. That's what he did tonight."

A's left-hander Brett Anderson, making his first career Opening Day start, pitched seven strong innings but took the loss. He allowed two runs on four hits, all singles, while striking out six and walking four.

Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez gave Hernandez all the necessary support with a two-run single in the fifth.

The A's barely tested Hernandez over the first seven innings, but trailing 2-0 in the eighth, Oakland mounted a two-out rally. Seth Smith ripped a double into the right field corner, and Eric Sogard walked, bringing Coco Crisp to the plate.

Mariners left-hander Charlie Furbush came out of the bullpen to relieve Hernandez. He walked Crisp, loading the bases. Right-hander Stephen Pryor came on to face right-handed-hitting pinch hitter Derek Norris.

After getting ahead 2-0, Norris hit a ground ball to second baseman Dustin Ackley, who stepped on second for the force.

Hernandez retired the first 10 A's hitters he faced, striking out four, before giving up a one-out double to new A's catcher and former teammate John Jaso, who caught Hernandez's perfect game against Tampa Bay on Aug. 15 last season.

"I was going to get a hit," Jaso said, smiling. "I wasn't going to let him get a perfect game if I was hitting against him."

Jaso hit an opposite-field line drive to the left-center gap and barely beat Gutierrez's throw to second. Jaso moved to third on Reddick's ground out to Hernandez, bringing Yoenis Cespedes to the plate. Cespedes hit a hard ground ball up the middle, but shortstop Brendan Ryan ranged far to his left and threw out the batter from the outfield grass.

"I just wanted to make sure I caught it," Ryan said. "That was my first thought. Just catch it. Once I caught it, then it was find (first baseman Justin Smoak) and make the best throw I can. As soon as I released it, I knew we were OK.

"It's fun to see (Hernandez) get fired up like that. ... Opening Day or midseason, you really couldn't tell the difference. He's such a competitor. I love the way he gets excited out there when guys are making plays behind him. Most of the time we don't because he's making guys miss. Always feel good about your chances when he's out there."

NOTES: Before the game, Hernandez had a Rolex watch delivered to Jaso, a gift for catching his perfect game last season. "Getting to be a part of it is way bigger than this, but this is definitely a really nice gesture," Jaso said. "He really didn't have to. I was really just happy with being behind the plate. He came through." ... A's infielder Adam Rosales, who went on the disabled list March 26 with a strained muscle in his rib cage, said he hopes to be sidelined less than the four weeks initially expected. "I'm hopeful it will be a little bit quicker than that, just from the way I'm feeling now, but I haven't tested it yet," Rosales said. "I haven't taken a swing or anything. Maybe later on in the week we'll get a chance to test it out a little bit. It feels better than I thought it would." ... Mariners outfielder Raul Ibanez, who turns 41 on June 2, experienced his first Opening Day in the big leagues in 1999 with the Mariners in the Kingdome's final season. "When they used to do the lights on the Kingdome floor, it was awesome," Ibanez said. "I'll never forget it." ... Monday night's game at the Coliseum drew a sellout crowd of 36,067.