SEATTLE -- The Seattle Mariners are a new team with new expectations for themselves this season, but Friday night’s storyline is one that’s played out many times before.
Felix Hernandez took it to the A’s once again in a 6-4 Seattle victory to open this three-game series at Safeco Field. The right-hander has dominated Oakland twice in a six-day span, and though A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson wasn’t quite as impressed with Hernandez as he was in last Saturday’s outing at the Coliseum, the numbers speak for themselves.
“In Oakland, I can only think of about three or four pitches the entire game he gave us to hit,” Donaldson said after Friday’s loss. “Tonight, he gave us some pitches to hit but we weren’t able to take advantage of it as often as we wanted to. … We’re probably going to face him again sometime this year and we need to do a better job scoring runs off him.”
There’s much buzz about whether the Mariners can make a run in the American League West after adding star second baseman Robinson Cano, closer Fernando Rodney and some other complementary pieces.
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The real story is whether they can handle the A’s when Hernandez isn’t on the mound. That’s what makes the next two days interesting. The A’s face right-hander Erasmo Ramirez on Saturday, a pitcher who lasted just four innings against them and took the loss Sunday. In the series finale, they face veteran Chris Young, who had his scheduled start against the A’s scratched last week with the postponement due to a wet field.
Through their first nine games, it’s tough to glean just how legitimate the Mariners are.
As for the A’s? They certainly have to play better than they did Friday night. They made errors on consecutive plays in the fourth that led to two runs and gave Seattle a 3-0 lead. They botched a couple other plays defensively and looked so sloppy early on that it overshadowed how poorly they were faring in the batter’s box against Hernandez.
[RECAP: Mariners 6, A's 4]
“We didn’t play very well early in the game, and Tommy (Milone) pitched way better than his line would suggest,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We were sloppy early on, no question.”
That shabby defensive effort made it tough to truly gauge Milone’s first start of the season. He gave up 10 hits and five runs (three earned), but he managed to pitch out of a very tough jam in the first, stranding the bases loaded and keeping the Mariners to one run after fielding blunders by left fielder Yoenis Cespedes and first baseman Daric Barton helped back him in a corner.
“It’s tough to look at that outing and be happy about it,” Milone said. “But it was just good to get back out there and compete.”
A roster decision is likely coming down Saturday for Oakland as outfielder Craig Gentry should be activated from the disabled list. The most likely candidates to be bumped from the roster to make room for him appear to be outfielder Sam Fuld and Barton. Frankly, neither did anything Friday to help his case.
Both went hitless and struck out twice, and Barton had a defensive mistake in the first when he bobbled a grounder with runners on the corners, looked toward second and didn’t get an out anywhere.
“Barton’s a very good first baseman,” Melvin said. “That wasn’t his best play.”
And Friday wasn’t the A’s best day. They’ll try to reboot Saturday, which should be easier if for no other reason than Hernandez won’t be anywhere near the pitcher’s mound.