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SEA@OAK: Vargas looks sharp through 6 1/3 innings

TOKYO -- A fun-filled week in Japan didn't end quite the way the Mariners hoped Thursday as the A's played long ball on Seattle's bullpen to spoil a sterling start by Jason Vargas for a 4-1 victory in the second game of the Opening Series.

Cuban free agent Yoenis Cespedes ripped a two-run home run off reliever Shawn Kelley in the seventh inning and Josh Reddick followed with a solo blast off George Sherrill as the two new Oakland outfielders provided all the punch needed on a day Seattle managed just one run on a Justin Smoak home run.

Kelley didn't allow a run in 12 2/3 innings last September after returning from Tommy John surgery, but the right-hander gave up the game-changing blow when he hung a slider to Cespedes as the A's pulled out a split in the two-game set.

"That's my go-to pitch," Kelley said. "I want to make a pitch and I didn't do it. It's sad. Vargas pitched a [heck of a] game and deserved to win. Smoaky got the big hit and I cost us the game. Everything that happened after me is on me.

"I'm going to do everything I can to not let that happen again," he said. "It was just a mistake."

Designated hitter Jonny Gomes added an insurance run with another home run, this one off Steve Delabar, in the eighth inning.

Seattle's offense did little to help out, managing just three hits and one run off veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon, who went eight innings in his first start for the A's.

"He came right at us, worked both sides of the plate," said Smoak. "You've got to get guys on base to score runs, and that's something we didn't do tonight."

Other than a bases-loaded situation in the fifth, the only Mariner to reach all night was Smoak on his home run trot.

That blow interrupted a pitcher's duel between Vargas and Colon after Colon had breezed through six innings on just two hits. That lead was short-lived, however, once manager Eric Wedge took Vargas out after he'd thrown 85 pitches.

Wedge said he wanted to bring in the right-handed Kelley at that point in the lineup, and he got the second out with a fielder's-choice grounder by Kurt Suzuki before Cespedes turned the game around.

"We were one pitch away from being out of that inning, then you can go to your setup [man] and closer," Wedge said. "You're one pitch from being in command of the ballgame. But Shawn hung that slider and then Sherrill did the same to Reddick. The big ball really hurt us late in the ballgame."

Kelley wasn't the only reliever to struggle. Sherrill faced three batters and gave up the home run to Reddick and then two sharp singles before Delabar came on to end the eighth.

"It was just bad pitches," Sherrill said. "The breaking ball [to Reddick] was a bad pitch, but it was still a popup. The next two were just bad pitches and got laced.

"I hate to say it, but it still feels like Spring Training to me. It's kind of weird playing real games and then going back to Spring Training again. No excuse, I've still got to do better. But I still have a little ways to go to get ready."

Vargas went 6 1/3 innings with just one run on two hits in a masterful season debut. He gave up a single to Cliff Pennington, the A's second batter, then retired 13 straight before a Reddick double in the fifth.

But Oakland couldn't do any real damage to the 29-year-old lefty. Even when he walked leadoff hitter Jemile Weeks with one out in the sixth, Weeks immediately was thrown out stealing by Miguel Olivo.

Could Vargas have gone longer? Perhaps, but this hasn't exactly been a normal spring and it had been 10 days since his last Cactus League outing, when he struggled and didn't throw as long as hoped.

"Skip has a great feel for the game and what's going on and what he wants to do in what situations," Vargas said. "Would I have liked to stay out there? Yes. But at the same time, he probably knows it's been a long time since I threw 100 pitches."

Colon was even more efficient in his first start for the A's, needing just 65 pitches to get through the first six innings before Smoak ripped a 2-2 pitch into the left-field seats.

Colon had a perfect game until rookie designated hitter Jesus Montero finally pushed a single to right with one out in the fifth. The Mariners loaded the bases with another base hit by Olivo and a walk by Michael Saunders. But Brendan Ryan grounded out to short to end that threat.

After a 4-for-5 opener, Ichiro Suzuki went 0-for-4 and saw his batting average drop to .444. But the veteran right fielder wasn't alone in his struggles as Colon stifled the Mariners from start to finish in front of the crowd of 43,391.

The Mariners fly home Friday and then play five more Cactus League games before resuming regular-season action at Oakland on April 6. Comments