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OAK@SEA: Montero cranks a solo homer to center

SEATTLE -- The trade was made in January, and the debate about it raged on through the winter. But the Mariners figured the dividends would begin to kick in around tax time.

A quick audit following Saturday night's 4-0 win over the Oakland A's proved that the early 2012 returns on Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi are looking quite healthy for the baseball year, thank you very much.

Montero and Noesi, the slugging catcher and long reliever-turned-starter reaped by Seattle in the much-publicized trade of All-Star pitcher Michael Pineda and Minor Leaguer Jose Campos to the New York Yankees, both made their first big impressions in Mariners uniforms -- and they both did it at home in Safeco Field in front of 21,071 boisterous fans.

Montero hit his first home run in a Mariners uniform to give his team a 1-0 lead in the second inning. He later doubled in two more in a three-run sixth to put Oakland away.

Meanwhile, Noesi, a Minor League teammate of Montero's for five seasons, looked like a different pitcher from the one who struggled in his season debut five days earlier in Texas. He pounded the strike zone early, often and late with a moving fastball that sat at 92 mph and hit 94. He worked in easy, quick concert with Montero, mixing in an effective slider and changeup, and threw eight scoreless innings, while striking out six, in the longest outing of his young Major League career.

"I wanted those two to work together today -- just because they do have some history," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "I think you've got to say that there's something there, just for the fact that they have been together a little bit in the past.

"Whenever you are a little bit more familiar with somebody, sometimes that does allow you to be a little bit more comfortable."

Like Noesi, Montero hadn't yet shown what the Mariners have been hoping for. He entered the game batting .286 and riding a seven-game hitting streak, but all of his hits had been singles until Saturday's second-inning blast. Facing Oakland lefty Tommy Milone, Montero lined an 88-mph fastball over the wall in straightaway center field, a 415-foot shot that gave him his first Seattle home run.

"It was cool," Montero said. "It's exciting for me to hit a home run in this field. It's a huge field, I know. And I did it in center field. It was unbelievable. I was impressed."

And in the sixth inning, after Justin Smoak had drawn a two-out walk with the bases loaded to put the Mariners up, 2-0, Montero struck again, dumping a soft line drive over A's first baseman Daric Barton's head that went for a two-run double.

Noesi didn't need anything else. His walk of Yoenis Cespedes in the top of the seventh was the only free pass he issued all night. The only time the A's got a runner on third base was after a Jemile Weeks' ground-rule double in the eighth, but Noesi got Coco Crisp on a first-pitch popout to end the threat.

Five days after giving up seven runs on six hits and three walks and throwing 85 pitches in three-plus innings in Texas, Noesi didn't reach that pitch count until there were two out in the seventh.

"I was missing my pitches in Texas, and [tonight] I tried to control myself first and make my pitches," Noesi said. "I just tried to get comfortable.

"[Montero and I] just got into it, like, 'This is the game, let's enjoy it.' He talked to me about whatever we talk about, like, 'Let's play a game.'"

It didn't seem so fun for the A's, who were shut out for the second time this season and failed to record at least 10 hits for the ninth time this year.

"He had good movement on his fastball and threw a few good changeups in there," A's catcher Kurt Suzuki said of Noesi. "He pitched well tonight, moved the ball around a lot."

As for Montero, the home run could go a long way toward helping the young catcher's confidence and Seattle's offensive fortunes. The shot snapped a 30-inning scoreless streak for the Mariners at home, dating back to last season. Seattle had been shut out in three consecutive games at Safeco Field.

"He did a real nice job behind home plate, got us going with that home run to center field, and did a good job sticking his nose in there in that bases-loaded situation and punching that ball to right field," Wedge said.

"He really stepped up for us."

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