OAKLAND, Calif. — After two days of bobbles by the home team, the Mariners had their own defensive problems. Mostly thanks to the sun.
Seattle still left its tough Bay Area trip with a winning series — and new manager Eric Wedge is off to a strong start leading a club picked to finish last in the AL West.
Ryan Langerhans homered in the second inning but the Mariners managed little else against Gio Gonzalez in a 7-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday, preventing a Seattle sweep.
“That’s great momentum. You want to come out of the gates strong,” Langerhans said, summing up the first three games. “You’ve seen it tons of times where teams that weren’t predicted to be in the thick of things get some (early) momentum and are able to keep it rolling. That’s something we have to do.”
Ichiro Suzuki finished his first three games at 5 for 12 (.417). The leadoff hitter broke Edgar Martinez’s franchise hits record during Saturday night’s 5-2 win, then added another single Sunday.
Japanese countryman Hideki Matsui, Oakland’s new designated hitter, doubled to start the second inning for his first hit of the year after an 0-for-7 start, then added an RBI single in a four-run seventh.
“I feel relief just getting my first hit as a member of the A’s and getting our first win,” Matsui said. “I’m not really focused on my hits between Japan and the big leagues.”
The A’s celebrated Japanese Heritage Day and raised money for earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. Oakland observed a pregame moment of silence to remember the victims of the devastating March 11 disaster. Opening-day uniforms worn Friday and autographed by Suzuki and Matsui were auctioned off to aid the Red Cross, raising more than $10,000 between the two.
Mark Ellis drove in three runs to back a solid 2011 debut by Gonzalez, a 15-game winner last season who improved to 5-1 for his career against Seattle.
Coco Crisp hit an RBI triple in the third inning and missed hitting for the cycle by a home run. Oakland, which expects to contend for a division title, earned its first victory of 2011 to keep from starting a season 0-3 for the first time since 1996.
“This is how it should have been right from the get go,” Gonzalez said. “We just needed to wake up a little bit.”
Gonzalez (1-0), who picked out the new retro bright gold jerseys worn by the A’s for the first time, was unfazed after falling behind on Langerhans’ drive. He allowed six hits, struck out four and walked four, retiring his final three batters after the first two hitters reached in the seventh inning.
He stayed in the game after a mound visit by manager Bob Geren.
Ellis’ RBI groundout in the fourth gave the A’s a 2-1 lead. Kurt Suzuki helped set up the run, reaching on a one-out double when Mariners left fielder Milton Bradley lost a fly ball in the sun. The same thing happened Saturday night when Ichiro Suzuki and center fielder Michael Saunders lost track of Daric Barton’s fly.
“We weren’t making plays. Obviously the sun got us a couple of times, a couple of the balls dropped in there,” Wedge said. “We opened the door for them and they took advantage of it. That’s going to happen at this level.”
Langerhans also singled for the Mariners, who head to Texas next to face the AL champion Rangers in a three-game series before returning to Safeco Field for their home opener Friday against Cleveland. Seattle’s lone break in the first 24 days of April comes Thursday.
Seattle was trying to move to 3-0 for only the second time in franchise history — joining the 1985 team. The Mariners haven’t swept the A’s in Oakland since Sept. 17-19, 2007, and have only three wins in their last 11 games at the Coliseum.
After getting outscored 11-4 in the first two games of the series, the A’s generated more offense from their upgraded middle of the order.
“That’s more of the team that we should see every day,” Geren said.
Oakland tagged Doug Fister (0-1) for three runs — two earned — and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings. Fister lost three of his final four starts in 2010, including his last two.
The A’s, who committed five errors in Friday’s opener and one Saturday, had another in the series finale when Barton dropped Chone Figgins’ popup in foul territory in the first inning.
“Our defense has been stinking up the field and the clubhouse,” Crisp said.
NOTES: Gonzalez threw 116 pitches, fourth-most of his career. … RHP Josh Lueke made his major league debut when he relieved Fister in the sixth, then RHP Tom Wilhelmsen made his first big league appearance in the eighth. … Mariners closer David Aardsma, recovering from hip surgery, threw a 30-pitch bullpen session and let it go toward the end of his outing with no problems. It was his third bullpen. … These teams will play 16 more times this season, with the A’s visiting Safeco Field for the first time from April 21-24. Oakland took the 2010 season series 13-6. … The A’s and their fans raised more than $65,000 in all for Japan, which included $1 from each ticket Sunday. Suzuki’s uniform sold for $6,015 and Matsui’s went for $4,555.