OAKLAND, Calif. — Felix Hernandez sweated out most of the last three innings innings from the dugout, watching the seven-run lead he once held on the mound dissolve.
For a change, though, King Felix had room for error.
Chone Figgins finished a home run short of the cycle and every Seattle Mariners starter had a hit, overcoming a shaky outing from Hernandez and a late rally to beat the Oakland Athletics 8-7 on Saturday night. The drama was more than enough for the 2010 AL Cy Young Award to bear.
“It’s not going to happen again,” Hernandez said. “I’m not going to give up six runs.”
If Seattle can keep hitting like this, the staff ace might be able to breathe easier.
Figgins’ two-run double off Bartolo Colon (1-1) highlighted a six-run fourth — helped by center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who misplayed a ball earlier in the inning — to give Seattle a 7-0 lead. Ichiro Suzuki also had two hits and an RBI and Kyle Seager singled twice as the Mariners took the season-opening series 3-1, splitting the first two in Japan and taking both in Oakland.
“They’ve all been tough ballgames, tight balls and different types of ballgames. I think that’s a good indicator for us,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Cespedes atoned for his mistake with a three-run homer against reliever Steve Delabar, the third long ball in four games by the powerful Cuban defector. He also hit a towering shot to center a night earlier in his stateside debut.
Hernandez (1-0) gave up six runs on eight hits in 6 1-3 innings, striking out seven and walking one. Brandon League pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save this season, one of four Seattle relievers to hold off Oakland’s comeback.
A night after chasing Brandon McCarthy in five innings, Seattle quickly pounced on another A’s starter.
Colon allowed seven runs on 10 hits in 5 1-3 innings, struggling to keep the ball down against a patient Mariners offense. He still seemed to be in control early, striking out three and walking none.
“Maybe it was because the first time (in Japan), they don’t see me too much,” Colon said. “And now, they see me again, and they probably checked a lot of videos and find out the best way to make contact.”
One misjudgment is all it took to spark the Seattle offense.
With a runner on first in the fourth, Cespedes broke in two steps on a line drive to center by Suzuki until he realized the ball was carrying fast in the thin Bay Area air. He hustled back, leaped for a catch and the ball clipped the top of his glove for a run-scoring triple that started a Seattle surge.
“I saw the ball well of the bat, but the way the ball was coming, I lost it a little bit in the stands,” Cespedes said. “And when I tried to go back, it was too late.”
The Mariners sent 10 batters to the plate during the six-run inning. The last came when Figgins lined a two-run double to right that extended Seattle’s lead to 7-0, bringing out boos for the second straight night from a frustrated fan base that’s letting out its displeasure even earlier this season.
This time, Oakland didn’t go out with a whimper.
Hernandez hit Cespedes in the back — the Cuban said he was “100 percent sure” it was intentional after he stared at his homer a night earlier — to load the bases in the bottom of the forth, then forced three fly outs to end the inning. Seth Smith’s sacrifice fly to center put Oakland on the board.
The 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner never looked in rhythm, and the A’s finally made him pay late.
Jemile Weeks sent an 0-1 fastball over the left field fence in the fifth, and Kurt Suzuki doubled to drive in a pair of runs in the sixth, slicing Seattle’s lead to 8-4 after Michael Saunders hit a solo home run in the top of the inning.
Hernandez was lifted with an out in the seventh after allowing a pair of singles, giving Oakland’s only power source a chance to bat with baserunners. And he didn’t disappoint — again.
Cespedes clobbered a three-run homer to right-center — not quite the soaring shot he clocked off the second-deck facade in center Friday — off Delabar to bring Oakland with a run. But the A’s never even put another runner on base over the final seven outs.
NOTES: Munenori Kawasaki’s RBI single in the fourth was hit first major league hit. He replaced SS Brendan Ryan, a late scratch because of a stiff neck. Mariners manager Eric Wedge said Ryan’s neck stiffness is not related to last season’s neck injury. “He just slept wrong,” Wedge said. … Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson attended Oakland’s batting practice with two of his young children. … Both teams are off Sunday. Seattle will start RHP Hector Noesi on Monday at Texas, which has Japanese sensation Yu Darvish set to make his major league debut. LHP Tom Milone is scheduled to start for the A’s on Monday when they host Kansas City, which will have righty Luis Mendoza on the mound.