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Cespedes goes yard for three in the seventh

OAKLAND -- The A's were never interested in hosting a pity party for themselves, never mind a cruel schedule that has them facing Seattle's Felix Hernandez three times in the first two weeks of the season.

Meeting No. 2 took place Saturday at the Coliseum, Hernandez coming out the victor in an 8-7 A's defeat. It marked his 13th career victory in 23 tries vs. Oakland, but the right-hander hardly stole the show.

Manager Bob Melvin's club, for a second straight night, appeared out of sync on nearly all cylinders in the early goings, until the A's rallied for six runs off Hernandez -- the most they've ever tallied against him -- and witnessed Yoenis Cespedes notch his third homer in four games.

But by the time A's starter Bartolo Colon's teammates put up their first run, he had already surrendered seven, and despite a strong comeback attempt, Oakland couldn't save the veteran right-hander from picking up his first loss of the season.

"Disappointing," Melvin said. "We like the fact we rallied and certainly played better in the second half of the game than we did in the first half, but there are really no moral victories there."

Colon, coming off a stellar eight-inning outing against the Mariners in Tokyo last week, proved all too hittable this time around, following eight days of rest. He quickly surrendered a run in the first and proceeded to retire nine straight before a nightmarish fourth inning -- "It's certainly not an inning you use as a teaching clinic," Melvin quipped -- unfolded. The Mariners sent 10 men to the plate and scored six runs in the frame, and by the fifth, with just one out, Colon was done for the night.

He didn't get much help from his defense, though. After Dustin Ackley led off the fourth with a single, Ichiro Suzuki lined a ball to center field, where Cespedes broke in before watching it sail over his head, allowing Ackley to score and Ichiro to make his way to third for a triple.

Playing in just his fourth Major League game, Cespedes said afterward he saw the ball well off the bat but lost sight of it as its path lengthened and, by the time it appeared within reach, he was already too far behind.

"That's the toughest ball for a center fielder, a line-drive ball right at you," Melvin said. "He knows that Ichiro doesn't drive a lot of balls over the center fielder's head. He came in the way he thought the ball would end up, and [Ichiro] squared it up a bit more and it ended up over his head. You're going to see some center fielders do that."

Justin Smoak's ensuing bloop single to right field kept the rally going and, after Jesus Montero tallied the first out with a flyout, Kyle Seager and Miguel Olivo restarted the hit parade with a single apiece, as another run scored. Following Michael Saunders' popup to shortstop, Munenori Kawasaki grounded a sharp ball to left that deflected off Cliff Pennington's glove, and Coco Crisp's throw home was offline, not only allowing a runner in but giving Olivo and Kawasaki the chance to reach third and second, respectively.

The damage continued when Chone Figgins followed with a two-run double, before Ackley grounded out to end the fateful inning.

"I think a few pitches were up a little more than we've seen," Melvin said of Colon. "He threw a lot of fastballs like he normally does, but I'm guessing some balls were in the middle of the plate, more so certainly than last time."

Colon agreed, noting one too many balls were elevated but, overall, felt no better or worse than he did in Japan. Either way, the A's were left staring down quite the task, as a seven-run deficit, combined with Hernandez's presence, could have easily equated to a deflated dugout. But Oakland proved unmoved by the recent happenings and, over the next four innings, combined for seven runs.

Cespedes was responsible for three of them, as he launched a three-run shot off Mariners reliever Steve Delabar with two outs in the seventh inning to center field. Jemile Weeks also homered for the A's in the fifth, and Kurt Suzuki collected a two-run double an inning later.

None of it was enough to lift the A's (1-3) past the Mariners, who exit Oakland having taken three of the clubs' first four meetings, but at the very least it shook Hernandez, who gave up six runs just three times in 33 starts last year.

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

Too many more repeat performances by the 2010 Cy Young winner are likely to be had, yet the A's are hoping for just that from Cespedes, whose three home runs outnumber his club's win total this season. He is the only A's player to hit safely in each of the first four games and has in no way shied away from swinging the bat.

He struck out in two of his previous three plate appearances of the night -- he was hit by a pitch in the other and said he was "100 percent sure" Hernandez did it intentionally, since a base was open with men on second and third -- before launching yet another long ball.

"To be able to strike out a few times like he does and then come up and hit a home run like that, which at the time is the biggest hit of the game and gets us back into it, shows you a little bit about his makeup," Melvin said. Comments