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Morse belts two homers to lead Mariners past A's

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Seattle Mariners outfielder Michael Morse gave a hint of what was to come during spring training when he belted nine home runs, leading the major leagues.

Morse picked up Tuesday night where he left off in Arizona, blasting two homers and leading the Mariners to a 7-1 win over the Oakland A's at the Coliseum.

This is Morse's second stint in Seattle. The Mariners brought him back from the Washington Nationals in a three-team trade -- catcher John Jaso went from Seattle to the A's -- to do exactly what he did Tuesday night, provide some much-needed power in the middle of the order.

Morse launched a three-run shot off A's right-hander Jarrod Parker in the third inning, then added a solo blast off closer Grant Balfour in the ninth. It was the sixth career multi-homer game for Morse, who led the major leagues with nine home runs in spring training.

"Any time you can add a guy like him, that's big," said Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, who went 3-for-3 and walked twice, reaching base all five times he came to the plate. "You saw what he can do tonight. He can really take over a game with one swing of the bat.

"He had a big knock to get us going in the third inning. And obviously what he did in the ninth was pretty special. He's just got that in him."

Morse's first home run of the night, an opposite-field blast that just cleared the right-field wall, gave Seattle a 3-1 lead. That was more than enough offense for Hisashi Iwakuma. The right-hander held the A's to one run on two hits over six innings and left with Seattle leading 4-1. The Mariners added single runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

"He threw some good pitches early, and I was trying to do too much," Morse said of his third-inning at-bat. "I just relaxed, got in my two- strike approach and let him provide the power and just tried to put the barrel on the ball."

A's left fielder Yoenis Cespedes hit a leadoff home run in the second inning, but that's the last damage Oakland did against Iwakuma.

Iwakuma went 0-2 with a 6.14 ERA against the A's last season, his first in the major leagues after 11 in Japan. This time, Iwakuma was in control from the outset. He struck out seven and didn't walk a batter. He threw just 88 pitches, 53 for strikes and would have stayed in the game if not for a tender spot on his right index finger that has bothered him since late in spring training.

"I felt fine from the get go, but as we went along it started to get a little tender," Iwakuma said through an interpreter. "Eighty-eight pitches was the limit for today."

After being blanked 2-0 by the Mariners on Opening Day, the A's have now scored a combined one run in back-to-back losses. A's manager Bob Melvin was asked if his team is pressing after winning the American League West last season.

"I don't think they're pressing because of what happened last year," Melvin said. "We just got off to a bad start offensively, and then you try to do a little bit too much. Now you're swinging at first pitches and doing some things a little out of character. It's just the fact that Felix (Hernandez) pitched a good game last night, and our at-bats today weren't as good as they should be today."

Parker followed a rough spring training with a rough regular-season debut, allowing five hits and four runs over five innings and 95 pitches. He walked three and struck out one. Parker went 4-0 with 2.65 ERA over his final five starts last season as a rookie and finished 13-8.

"I never really settled in," Parker said. "I never really got comfortable, didn't have anything to go to tonight. You're not going to be very successful when that happens."

Parker was protecting a one-run lead and had two outs when Morse hit a 2-2 fastball high and over the fence in right, just out of reach of Josh Reddick, who crashed into the wall face first but stayed in the game.

"He's hungry," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of Morse, who hit 18 home runs last year and 31 in 2011 for the Nationals. "He's a big strong guy, but he takes a lot of pride in being a hitter first.

"That's a difference maker in a ball game. It changes the entire course of the ball game."

Although Iwakuma is in just his second season in the major leagues, he's no stranger to the A's. He went 9-5 with a 3.16 ERA as a rookie, opening the season as a reliever then moving into the rotation in July.

In November 2010, the A's made a move to land Iwakuma when he was still playing in Japan. Oakland won exclusive negotiating rights to talk with him after bidding $19.1 million. The A's weren't able to strike a deal during the 30-day window. So Iwakuma remained with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan's Pacific League -- and the money went back to the A's.

Iwakuma signed a free-agent contract with the Mariners in January 2012. After last season, he signed an extension through 2014 with an option for 2015. In other words, the A's can expect to face him often this year and beyond.

The same goes for Morse.

NOTES: Seattle's Raul Ibanez made his first start of the season, playing left field, replacing center fielder Franklin Gutierrez. Michael Saunders moved from right to center and Morse from left to right. Gutierrez battled tightness in his legs during spring training, and Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he wanted to both give him some rest and give Ibanez a start. "We do want to make sure we take care of (Gutierrez). That's part of it," Wedge said. "The fact of the matter is you still have to find a way to get Raul in the lineup. So it works both ways. Ibanez went 0-for-3 with a walk. Gutierrez entered the game in the seventh inning as a defensive replacement and went 1-for-1 with a double. ... Veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon will start for Oakland against Houston on Saturday, the first day he'll be eligible after finishing a 50-game suspension for testing positive for testosterone last season. A's manager Bob Melvin was asked why he's putting Colon in a game so quickly after his return. "For a lot of reasons, but one, you want to get him started sooner than later," Melvin said. "Two, we'd have to find another place for him to pitch, and three, we just want to get him in there. We had targeted this all along. His spring training was conducive to pitching the sixth game." ... Melvin rarely used the same lineup two days in a row last year, but that's what he did in the first two games this season. "My pen was shaking today," Melvin joked. "Going in we had a lineup that for the most part was playing against righties and one against lefties. So you might see a significantly different lineup tomorrow."
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