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Mariners' Hernandez wins again in Oakland

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- With the infield back in working order and bright sunshine on tap at the Coliseum, Felix Hernandez was able to do his usual Coliseum thing.

Hernandez has an unbeaten streak of 10 consecutive starts at the A's ballpark and on Saturday, in the Seattle Mariners' 3-1 victory over Oakland, he allowed six hits in 8 1/3 innings.

Since the start of the 2009 season, Hernandez is 5-0 with a 2.76 ERA in Oakland. His 10-start streak is the second-longest undefeated streak by a visiting starter at the Coliseum after Mike Flanagan's run of 13 undefeated starts with Baltimore from 1977 to 1984.

"For the first seven innings, that might have been the best we've seen him," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Hernandez.

The A's got zip until the ninth when shortstop Jed Lowrie lined a homer over the wall in right center to lead off the inning. Designated hitter Brandon Moss followed with a single and went to second on a wild pitch before left fielder Yoenis Cespedes hit a towering ball down the line in left ... just foul.

"That scared me a little bit," Hernandez said with a smile.

Hernandez (2-0) had been told that Cespedes would be his last batter. Reliever Fernando Rodney took over and struck out catcher John Jaso and right fielder Josh Reddick.

Jaso, who caught Hernandez's perfect game two years ago, agreed that Hernandezs stuff was in that league on Saturday.

"He pitched really well, he used his fastball efficiently, his changeup is nasty," Jaso said.

In the sixth, center fielder Coco Crisp had tripled with one out, but Hernandez struck out third baseman Josh Donaldson and got Lowrie to pop up. Overall, Hernandez is 16-7 against the A's lifetime.

"Now, even when he isn't as dirty as he usually is, he still knows how to pitch -- but today he was nasty," Moss said. "I didn't see it going very well for us unless he lost it. Everything he threw was moving."

A's closer Jim Johnson, who took losses in two of the team's first three games, pitched the eighth inning on Saturday and allowed one hit while striking out two. With the weather-related postponement on Friday, Johnson had not worked since Wednesday's doubleheader, in which he incurred a blown save and a loss in the second game.

Melvin said he wanted to get Johnson an inning of work Saturday no matter what, that was the only reason he was in in that situation .

Starters Dan Straily (0-1) and Hernandez carved through hitters with zeal in the early going, with Straily racking up seven strikeouts in the first four innings and Hernandez matching that total.

In the fifth, though, Straily's day went south. The right-hander allowed four hits, all for extra bases, including a two-run homer by left fielder Dustin Ackley and a solo shot by center fielder Abraham Almonte.

Straily said both homers came on two-seam fastballs.

"Other than those couple of pitches, he pitched really well," Melvin said.

With King Felix on the mound, that was essentially a game-over notification -- he has not lost a game at the Coliseum since Sept. 19, 2008.

"The way he was looking, you know if you get one run, you're in good shape," Ackley said. "When he's on, if you score first, it puts a lot of pressure on the other team -- and makes Felix even better."

The A's other scoring chance came in the fourth, when Lowrie singled for the team's first hit, and Moss hit a fly ball to shallow left center that fell in between Mariners shortstop Brad Miller, Almonte and Ackley. Lowrie was unable to score on the play, though there were two outs. Cespedes struck out to end the inning, stranding the runners at second and third.

After Friday night's strange wet-infield game cancellation, the Coliseum was ready for play on Saturday. The grounds crew, under Clay Wood, worked overnight to get the infield back into shape. It had been deemed "unplayable" after going untarped during rain showers on Thursday night. Melvin deemed the work the grounds crew did in reading the field "absolutely miraculous."

The A's took optional batting practice on the field before the game and the Mariners also hit on the field.

They are likely to play a makeup doubleheader in May after Friday's postponement.

NOTES: Seattle's highly touted young starter, Taijuan Walker (shoulder), threw 72 pitches in a rehab outing with Class A High Desert on Friday, striking out seven in 4 1/3 innings, and the right-hander will throw 85 pitches his next time out. There is some chance he could come off the disabled list after that. ... The A's will skip LHP Tommy Milone's turn in the rotation because of the two rainouts the first week of the season, and RHP Sonny Gray will start on Sunday as originally scheduled. ... Milone told the San Francisco Chronicle that he will throw to minor-league hitters at the team's complex in Phoenix on Sunday. ... Oakland reliever Ryan Cook (shoulder) was scheduled to pitch two innings for Class A Stockton at Visalia on Saturday night. He is likely to join the A's at some point on their next road trip, which begins Monday at Minnesota. ... OF Craig Gentry (back) was scheduled to play nine innings in the same game, and like Cook, he could join the A's on the upcoming three-city road trip.
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