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OAK@SEA: Hernandez strikes out six over seven frames

SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez has been awfully tough on the A's over the years at Safeco Field, but Oakland had a secret weapon of its own Friday to spoil the Mariners' home opener.

Facing the A's for the third time already this young season, Hernandez saw his five-game win streak over Oakland at Safeco snapped in a 4-0 loss in which he surrendered just two runs in seven innings.

Turns out A's starter Bartolo Colon doesn't mind pitching in the comforts of Safeco Field either, as he hurled seven scoreless innings with just three singles by the Mariners, improving to 10-1 with a 1.91 ERA in 12 career starts in Seattle.

"It's Opening Night and you want to go out there and show well and get a 'W' and everything," said Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager after an 0-for-4 night dropped his average to .281. "But he just threw a good game tonight and it was tough."

Mariners manager Eric Wedge insisted this was more about Colon than his team's offense, which he continues to believe will be much improved despite suffering its second shutout loss in the past four games.

"The home opener is obviously more significant because you're in front of your fans for the first time," said Wedge. "But I'll continue to say it, we're going to be a much better offensive club this year. Guys just got off the plane, got off the bus, we got here late last night. There's a lot going on with them.

"We'll settle in. They'll be more consistent and have better at-bats. We hit some balls hard and they did a good job defensively against us. But I really do feel once these guys hit their stride, you'll see a much more consistent ballclub offensively."

Hernandez gave up just two runs on seven hits over seven innings, wiggling out of several tough jams and pitching much better than he had in an 8-7 victory in Oakland last Saturday.

But the Mariners offense offered little in the way of support this time out, managing just three hits off Colon and two relievers as Seattle's record dropped to 4-5.

The A's added two runs against Seattle's bullpen in the final two frames, including a home run by Jemile Weeks off Charlie Furbush in the ninth, and then held on to spoil the Opening Night for a sellout crowd of 46,026.

Seattle is 3-2 against the A's, and Hernandez pitched in two of those wins, getting a no-decision in the 3-1 season-opening victory in Tokyo and then his first win in last Saturday's slugfest. But the Mariners ace wound up on the short end in the third meeting despite a gutsy performance on a night he didn't have his best stuff.

"I'm not happy about the performance, but it was just a couple mistakes I made and gave up those two runs and that cost us the game right there," Hernandez said. "We lost, that was the bad part."

Hernandez gave up both his runs in the third when the A's pieced together three hits and a walk. Cliff Pennington doubled off the base of the wall in center to score Daric Barton, and Coco Crisp followed with an RBI single.

Hernandez did some serious damage control in the fourth, loading the bases with one out before escaping unscathed by striking out Pennington and getting Weeks on a flyout to right.

He wiggled some more in the fifth, with Crisp drawing a leadoff walk and moving to second on a groundout before Hernandez left him stranded with two more infield grounders.

Hernandez acknowledged he was "a little bit" tired of facing the A's after three straight meetings. Rest assured, that feeling went both ways.

"We've seen plenty of him, there's no doubt about it," said Oakland skipper Bob Melvin.

But the Mariners couldn't counter with any offense against Colon, whom they knocked around for 10 hits and seven runs in 4 1/3 innings last Saturday. This time the veteran looked more like the guy who stymied them on three hits and a run in Tokyo.

Seattle's biggest threat against Colon came in the fourth, when Ichiro Suzuki and Jesus Montero singled and Michael Saunders followed with a long drive to right that hooked just foul. But Saunders then took a called third strike and Colon proceeded to retire the next 10 batters.

The Mariners came close again in the eighth when reliever Ryan Cook walked leadoff batters Miguel Olivo and Brendan Ryan. But Chone Figgins grounded back to Cook for a double play and Dustin Ackley ended the inning with a two-hopper to first base.

"I stayed on a tough slider and hit it right back up the middle, but he was in the perfect position," said Figgins. "We swung the bats OK, we just didn't get the hits when we needed."

Hernandez is now 7-3 with a 2.11 ERA all-time against Oakland at Safeco Field and 13-5 with a 2.70 ERA against the A's in 24 starts overall.

He said he wasn't worried about the lack of offensive production after getting eight runs to work with in his previous outing.

"Those guys were throwing hard," Hernandez said of the A's pitchers. "We're going to be good. It's only been eight games. We're going to be better. These guys can hit. I believe that."

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