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Mariners jump out to big lead, hang on vs. A's

The SportsXchange

SEATTLE -- Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez spent seven innings dominating the Oakland Athletics and igniting the yellow-clad fans, who came out to see his 2014 home debut at Safeco Field on Friday night, then he had a cordial chat with manager Lloyd McClendon before taking the mound for the eighth inning.

And then the wheels nearly fell off.

McClendon's decision to send Hernandez back out for the eighth set the wheels in motion for a disastrous inning that nearly saw the A's rally from a 6-0 deficit. In the end, Seattle's shaky bullpen held on to give Hernandez his third win of the season, 6-4 over the A's in front of 38,968 fans.

Hernandez (3-0) tossed seven innings of three-hit ball, striking out 11 along the way, before both of the batters he faced in the eighth inning reached base and eventually came around to score. His seven-inning outing resulted in four hits and two runs, and yet Hernandez was even more dominant than the numbers.

"There (were) a lot of people there," Hernandez said. "If you throw a bad game, it's not going to be good."

Hernandez did all he could do before the Seattle bullpen almost gave all of its six-run lead away.

The A's (6-4) scratched out four runs in the eighth inning, most of it coming against the Seattle bullpen, to pull within two runs before Mariners closer Fernando Rodney came on in the ninth to earn his third save of the season.

Even Rodney's ninth inning carried some drama when Oakland pinch hitter John Jaso led off with a double to put the tying run at the plate. But Rodney got the next three batters out, finishing the game by striking out pinch hitter Coco Crisp.

With a large majority of the fans sporting yellow T-shirts bearing Hernandez's name, Hernandez (3-0) dominated the A's for seven innings before the running out of gas in the eighth. He came out of the game to a standing ovation with the Mariners (6-3) nursing a comfortable 6-0 lead.

"He was really good again," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "You just try to hold on, get him out of the game and beat somebody else when he's pitching like that. That's almost what we did today."

After Hernandez came out, reliever Lucas Luetge walked the bases loaded and Danny Farquhar came out of the Seattle bullpen to walk in the first run charged to Hernandez all night. Oakland added three more runs on a wild pitch and RBI from Brandon Moss and Yoenis Cespedes, respectively.

Seattle's Mike Zunino appeared to break the game open with a two-run home run in the sixth inning, giving the Mariners a 5-0 lead while chasing Oakland starter Tommy Milone. The A's left-hander allowed five runs -- three earned -- off 10 hits over five innings of work. His numbers could have been even worse if not for a Kyle Seager home run that was overruled by instant replay, resulting in a harmless foul ball in the fourth.

Mariners shortstop Brad Miller added a solo shot off Oakland reliever Drew Pomeranz in the sixth as Seattle went ahead 6-0.

Demoted Oakland closer Jim Johnson kept the A's in the game by pitching two perfect innings in the seventh and eighth while striking out four of the six batters he faced. One day earlier, Melvin announced that Johnson would no longer be closing games after posting an ERA of 18.90 over his first five appearances with the A's.

"That was by far the best stuff we've seen from him," Melvin said after Johnson's two-inning performance Friday.

Seattle's Hernandez now has a 2.11 ERA this season with 30 strikeouts and only four walks over three starts. He retired 10 batters in a row to start the game before Oakland's Jed Lowrie singled to left field in the fourth. Through the fifth inning, Hernandez already had eight strikeouts while allowing just two hits.

"His stuff was extremely (good) tonight," McClendon said. "He had a good mix of all his pitches. He did a great job."

Tommy Milone's delayed season debut -- his scheduled start six days earlier was rained out -- got off on the wrong foot when the Mariners jumped on each of his first three pitches for base hits. Leadoff hitter and center fielder Abraham Almonte drove Milone's first pitch of the season into the left-field corner for a double. He came around to score on back-to-back infield singles by shortstop Brad Miller and second baseman Robinson Cano for a 1-0 lead with nobody out.

Milone settled down to get out of the inning with a bases-loaded, two-out strikeout by right fielder Stefen Romero.

"It's been awhile," Milone said. "My arm felt good. (The Mariners) did a good job of putting pressure on me early. But I felt good."

The Mariners appeared to add a run on the first pitch of the bottom of the fourth inning, but what was initially called a Seager home run was ruled a foul ball after umpires looked at an instant replay that clearly showed the ball drifting in front of the foul pole in right field. Seager eventually struck out, temporarily leaving the Mariners with a 1-0 lead.

But a pair of fourth-inning gaffes by the Oakland infield -- an errant throw by third baseman Josh Donaldson and a mishandled grounder by shortstop Jed Lowrie that resulted in an infield base hit -- helped the Mariners push across two runs to open up a 3-0 advantage on a night when starting pitcher Felix Hernandez was on cruise control.

NOTES: The A's are 5-1 in day games this season. Heading into Friday night's game, they held a 1-2 record in evening games. ... The Mariners still have not announced their starting pitcher for Tuesday's game at Texas. An injury to LHP James Paxton has left Seattle with four starting pitchers on the current roster, and the two leading candidates for Tuesday's start appear to be RHP Taijuan Walker, who is currently rehabbing a tired shoulder, and Triple-A product Blake Beavan. ... Crisp (wrist) was not in the lineup for the fourth consecutive game, but he came on to pinch hit with two outs in the ninth. ... RHP Chris Young will make his first start as a Mariner on Sunday, the team announced. Young was skipped over on his first scheduled start because of a rainout in Oakland, and he has come out of the bullpen one time.

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