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League retires Crisp to lock down the save

OAKLAND -- Felix Hernandez hasn't been handed a lot of seven-run leads in recent years by the Mariners, so the Seattle ace was kicking himself after giving most of it back Saturday night in an 8-7 victory over the A's.

"We won, so after that, it's no problem," Hernandez said after the Mariners completed a two-game sweep with some new-found offense. "But I was a little angry at the time because it was 7-0 and I was ticked.

"It's nice to get eight runs. But it's not nice to give up six, you know?"

Indeed it was an unusual turnabout for a Seattle team that finished last in the American League in scoring the past three years and often squandered far better outings from its ace. But the Mariners flexed some young muscle over the weekend, putting up 15 runs in the pair of victories after totaling just four in a two-game split in Tokyo at the Opening Series.

Hernandez, who turns 26 on Sunday, picked up his first win of the season despite allowing six runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings. He'd thrown eight innings of one-run ball in Japan on Opening Day, but wound up with a no-decision.

This time, the Mariners' offense delivered, putting up seven runs in the first four innings off veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon and then hanging on after the A's rallied late.

All nine Mariners starters had at least one hit, but two who many had given up on after last year led the offensive surge. New leadoff man Chone Figgins continued his hot start with a 3-for-5 night that included a triple, double, two RBIs and a run scored. Center fielder Michael Saunders ripped a solo home run in the sixth inning, carrying the momentum over from his impressive spring.

A year ago, Figgins hit .188 and Saunders .149, both losing their starting jobs midseason. But this is a new year, and the entire offense seems renewed the past two days after returning from Japan.

Saunders said the team is tired of hearing it has offensive potential and that it's time to perform instead.

"Obviously potential is a word that means you're just not doing it," said the 25-year-old. "Hopefully we can get rid of that stereotype because, yeah, we have a lot of talent.

"Over Spring Training and the last two games, we have been getting the job done and we're going to try to keep the ball rolling and hopefully potential will be a forgotten word in this clubhouse."

Figgins led off the first with a triple that bounced just inside the foul line in right field, then scored on a grounder to second by Dustin Ackley.

Seattle then opened a 7-0 lead with six runs on seven hits in the fourth, including an RBI triple by Ichiro Suzuki and a two-run double by Figgins. Justin Smoak, Miguel Olivo and Munenori Kawasaki added RBI singles.

"Figgins had a great ballgame for us again," manager Eric Wedge said after the veteran raised his average to .412 with a second straight three-hit game. "That's the reason he's up top. That's where he's most comfortable and confident."

At the other end of the order, Kawasaki delivered his first Major League hit and RBI after starting in place of shortstop Brendan Ryan, who was scratched 90 minutes before the game with a stiff neck.

"I was very excited and nervous," the eight-time Japanese All-Star said. "But being able to hit in that situation was very relieving from my end, being able to help the team."

Hernandez wiggled out of a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the fourth with some fancy pitching, allowing just a sacrifice fly to Seth Smith before getting Kurt Suzuki and Cliff Pennington to pop out.

The A's began chipping away though, scoring once in the fifth, twice in the sixth and putting two runners on with one out in the seventh before Wedge pulled Hernandez after 102 pitches.

Rule 5 Draft pick Lucas Luetge made a memorable MLB debut, striking out Josh Reddick on three pitches, but A's center fielder Yoenis Cespedes continued his early season onslaught with a mammoth three-run blast off Steve Delabar to cut the margin to 8-7. It was Cespedes' third homer in the past three games against Seattle.

Six of the runs were credited to Hernandez, who said he left a fastball over the plate to Weeks and then saw the A's start jumping on his pitches early in counts the rest of the way.

"I have to make an adjustment. I have to," he said. "That is not going to happen again. I gave up six runs. That is not going to happen."

But Tom Wilhelmsen zipped through a 1-2-3 eighth before Brandon League came on for his second save in as many nights to keep the A's at bay.

"It was nice to get two games in a row in," said League. "Willy and I hadn't pitched in three days and we've got Sunday off, so it didn't hurt to go back-to-back. That was the plan and it worked out. We got two 'Dubs.'"

Now the Mariners take a 3-1 record to Texas, where they'll play four before finally getting home for the Safeco Field opener on Friday.

"This team looks way better than last year," said Hernandez. "We're going to surprise people. We've got young talent over here and we can be good." Comments