OAKLAND, Calif. (Greg Johns/MLB.com) — Felix Hernandez looked like a $175 million pitcher Monday as the Mariners ace blanked the A’s on three hits over 7 2/3 innings in a 2-0 Opening Day victory at O.co Coliseum.
With new lead-off hitter Franklin Gutierrez delivering a two-run single in the fifth inning, the Mariners held on for their club-record seventh straight season-opening victory.
Hernandez, who signed a new seven-year extension in February, has been on the mound for six of those Opening Day wins and Monday’s might have been his best yet. He struck out eight with one walk, allowing just four baserunners while throwing 109 pitches.
The A’s finally knocked Hernandez out after a double and a walk with two out in the eighth. Charlie Furbush then walked Coco Crisp to load the bases, but Stephen Pryor came in to get a rally-killing groundout by pinch-hitter Derek Norris.
Tom Wilhelmsen gave up a two-out walk in the ninth but got Brandon Moss to fly out to preserve the shutout.
Hernandez is now 4-0 with a 1.33 ERA in six Opening Day starts. He’s tied with Randy Johnson for most Opening Day starts in franchise history and joins Bert Blyleven and Dwight Gooden as the only pitchers since 1920 to pitch six season openers prior to the age of 27.
Hernandez, who last August became the 23rd pitcher in history to throw a perfect game, handcuffed the A’s until former teammate John Jaso doubled with one out in the fourth.
Jaso received a Rolex watch from Hernandez prior to the game as a gift for catching that perfecto, but he wasn’t as gracious when he drove a fastball into the left-center gap and then moved to third on a slow groundout by Josh Reddick.
But Hernandez got out of that jam when shortstop Brendan Ryan fielded a hard shot up the middle by Yoenis Cespedes, spun and fired to first to easily beat the A’s cleanup hitter.
Ryan, hitting in the ninth spot after last year’s .194 season, was more than just a glove man in this one. He reached base his first three times up on a single and two walks and scored on Gutierrez’s single in the fifth.
That rally was set up when Dustin Ackley walked with one out, then hustled to third to narrowly beat the throw by right fielder Reddick on Ryan’s single. Ryan took second on the throw and both runners scored on Gutierrez’s single up the middle for a 2-0 lead.
Seth Smith got the second hit off Hernandez with a leadoff single in the sixth, but Hernandez dug deep to get out of that frame, coming back from a 3-0 count to strike out Crisp and then whiffing Jaso in a 10-pitch battle to end the inning.
Oakland left-hander Brett Anderson wasn’t quite as efficient as Hernandez, but he struck out the side in the first and then largely worked around four hits and four walks in his seven-inning stint, with only Gutierrez’s blow causing damage.
The A’s have now lost an American League-record nine straight openers, this one coming in front of a sellout crowd of 36,067 as they celebrated the return from last year’s AL West championship.