Mariners-Athletics Preview

JEFF BARTL
The Associated PressApril 7, 2012

When Felix Hernandez pitches against the Oakland Athletics, it more often than not has meant a win for the Seattle Mariners.

With the 2010 AL Cy Young award winner scheduled to pitch his first three games of the season against the A's, the Mariners have to feel good about their prospects.

Seattle seeks its ninth victory in Hernandez's last 10 starts versus host Oakland on Saturday night when the teams conclude their unusual season-opening four-game set that has spanned two continents.

Manager Eric Wedge pushed his ace back a day to allow Hernandez to start the Mariners' home opener against the A's next Friday. It may be a wise move given Seattle has gone 8-1 in Hernandez's last nine outings versus AL West rival Oakland (1-2), as he's posted a 5-0 record with a 1.87 ERA in that stretch.

Hernandez (0-0, 1.13 ERA) allowed one run and five hits in eight innings of Seattle's 3-1, 11-inning victory to open the season March 28 in Japan, and he'll now look to help the Mariners (2-1) take both games in Oakland.

Chone Figgins and Kyle Seager each drove in two runs in Friday's 7-3 Mariners win, and Figgins and Dustin Ackley had three hits apiece.

"Great reopening day,'' said Seattle shortstop Brendan Ryan, who had two hits and a walk and scored twice. "It's great to get restarted on a great note and doing the best we could to make them pay.''

Figgins, Ackley and Ichiro Suzuki - who had a sacrifice fly and a stolen base Friday - went a combined 0 for 10 against Bartolo Colon (1-0, 1.13) in a 4-1 loss March 29 overseas, and Colon will take the hill again Saturday.

Colon has faced Suzuki more than any other player in his 16-year career, with Suzuki going 21 for 73 (.288) with two doubles and three home runs.

He went 0 for 3 in Japan off Colon, who allowed one run and three hits in eight innings and improved to 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA in his last four starts against the Mariners.

He'll be donning the home white uniform for the first time at O.co Coliseum, where he's 5-1 with a 2.14 ERA lifetime in seven appearances, six of them starts.

Colon will look for some offensive help from Yoenis Cespedes, who crushed a towering two-run home run off Justin Vargas in Friday's loss.

The Cuban import, who also hit a two-run homer in the second game in Japan, has driven in half of Oakland's eight runs to begin the season but has also struck out five times in 10 at-bats.

He doubled, struck out and was hit by a pitch against Hernandez in his debut.

"I've hit longer home runs in Cuba,'' Cespedes said after Friday's blast. "For me, I just want to bring the power to the team. I tried to get a good pitch and make better contact.''

It wasn't enough to spark the A's, who remained winless in home openers since 2004.

"The whole game was disappointing,'' manager Bob Melvin said. "You want to make a good first impression. We don't get to play in front of too many crowds like that.''

Friday's loss ended the Athletics' four-game winning streak over the Mariners in Oakland.