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4/7/12: Mariners outlast A's in an offensive showdown

Pardon the A's and Mariners if they're ready to face another team. Seattle will stage its home opener against Oakland on Friday, and it will have ace Felix Hernandez on the mound for the third time against the A's this season.

The A's and Mariners have already played each other four times, including two games in Tokyo on March 28 and 29. Seattle also played in Oakland's home opener, and this will be the third "opening" game between the two teams.

"It's going to be another Opening Day where I'm going to have to go and shake the manager's hand at home plate again," said Oakland manager Bob Melvin of Friday's series opener. "I've shaken his hand more than a lot of my own players, I think. I think we'll both be ready to move on from the getting called out onto the line on that Opening Day thing."

Hernandez, one of the game's best pitchers, will be looking for a return to form. The right-hander pitched eight strong innings in his season debut, giving up five hits and one earned run in a game the Mariners eventually won 3-1 in 11 innings.

Oakland, at any rate, had better success against the Mariners ace last Saturday, when it torched him for eight hits and six earned runs in 6 1/3 innings, but Hernandez still was the winning pitcher in an 8-7 Seattle victory.

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

Even if he meant it, the A's have their own sense of bravado. Both Melvin and shortstop Cliff Pennington said that while the A's respect Hernandez, they're not intimidated by him and they will be ready to face him again Friday.

"Most of us have seen Felix enough, and he's seen us enough that there's a game plan already in place," said Pennington of the all-too-frequent matchup. "It's just about execution and if hitters don't miss their pitches and he doesn't miss his spots, it usually works out to whoever executes better."

"We are used to Felix," added Melvin of the former Cy Young Award-winner. "We all know what he brings to the table and what he does confidence-wise for their team, but hopefully we can gain some confidence off of last time."

And that sense of familiarity isn't one-sided. The A's will counter with Bartolo Colon, who pitched brilliantly against the Mariners in Japan -- allowing one run on three hits over eight innings -- only to be roughed up by the Mariners last Saturday in Oakland, when he gave up seven runs. Now, Colon has to show that he can still keep Seatle in check.

So who has the advantage in this matchup? If you ask Hernandez, there's just simply no way to tell.

"It can help me and it could help them, too," said Hernandez of facing a team so many times in a short period. "They'll have seen me three times, but I'm not going to change anything. I'll just go out there and pitch."

A's: Oakland on the mend
The A's used the disabled list just 15 times last season, and they're already a third of the way to that total. The A's had five players injured during Spring Training, and two of them -- Joey Divine and Scott Sizemore -- are out for the year. Southpaw Brett Anderson is out with an elbow injury that required surgery and will likely not be back until midseason.

Oakland is also waiting on a return to health for southpaw Dallas Braden, who had surgery to repair a torn shoulder capsule last May. Braden could be ready to return by next month. Daric Barton was the fifth player on the disabled list, but he recovered from a strained right shoulder and was able to return to Oakland's active roster for Wednesday's game.

Mariners: Third spot suits Ichiro
Ichiro Suzuki has made his bones as a leadoff hitter, but the Mariners have found a new place to slot him this season. Ichiro has batted third in all of Seattle's games this year after logging 1,720 of his first 1,733 career games in the top slot. Suzuki has three multihit games this season, but he has just one hit in his last three games combined.

Suzuki is a career .329 hitter against Oakland, a mark that rests just three points above his career average. The 38-year-old has scored 107 runs in 205 games against Oakland, his third-highest total against any team. For his career, Suzuki has logged a .326 batting average both at home and on the road, and he's never had a season with less than 184 hits.

Worth noting
When Oakland's Jonny Gomes was hit by a pitch to win Wednesday's game, it marked the third time in franchise history that the A's have won that way. Prior to Gomes, the last time they had done it was in July 2002. ... Former Mariner Mike Cameron will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Friday's home opener. ... Seattle's first 11 games are all against the American League West, and they'll go into the Oakland series with a 4-4 record over their first eight games.

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