OAKLAND, Calif. — The Seattle Mariners are getting good at spoiling the Oakland Athletics’ openers. This year, they’ve done it twice.
On two different continents, no less.
More than a week since pausing a series that began in Japan, Chone Figgins had three hits and two RBIs, and Kyle Seager singled twice and drove in a pair of runs to lead the Mariners past the A’s 7-3 on Friday night in the stateside opener for both teams.
“Great reopening day,” said Seattle shortstop Brendan Ryan, who had two hits and a walk. “It’s great to get restarted on a great note and doing the best we could to make them pay.”
Seager’s two-run single highlighted a four-run third inning that broke the game open for the Mariners, resuming the second half of a four-game series that started with a split in Japan. With the first victory going to the Mariners in each, Seattle has won its opener in Oakland three straight seasons.
“Opening day has been pretty good to us,” said Jason Vargas (1-0), who allowed five hits in 5 1-3 innings. His only mistake was a cutting fastball crushed by Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes to deep left-center field for a two-run homer, the second long ball of the season for Oakland’s new center fielder.
McCarthy (0-1) gave up five runs — two earned — on seven hits in five innings. The A’s never really mounted a threat, and settled for another setback against Seattle.
A wacky way to start the season finally began to resemble normalcy in the Coliseum’s confines.
The series began March 28 in Japan. Both teams returned to the U.S. to finish up the spring training schedule — oddly squeezed between the series and spread out over more than a week — before resuming meaningful games.
The Mariners moved back into regular-season mode fast.
For that matter, so did the A’s.
After Brendan Ryan doubled to lead off the third, Figgins bunted up the third-base line. Josh Donaldson’s throw to first pushed hustling second baseman Jemile Weeks into the baseline, getting his hand crushed by Figgins and sending the ball — and Weeks’ glove — into the spacious grass in foul territory.
McCarthy gave up a single to Dustin Ackley and a walk to Ichiro Suzuki to load the bases. He almost squeezed out of the jam when Justin Smoak flied out and Jesus Montero hit a sacrifice fly to right.
But Suzuki stole second and Seager followed with a two-run single to put the Mariners ahead 4-0, earning a smattering of boos from a rare crammed Coliseum crowd — announced a sellout at 35,067 — that has saved its best dismay for July, August and September in recent years.
“The whole game was disappointing,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “You want to make a good first impression. We don’t get to play in front of too many crowds like that.”
Only the newest and highest paid A’s player gave fans something to cheer about.
Cespedes smacked a cutting fastball off Vargas that hit the second-deck facade in left-center in the fourth, taking a long stare at the ball and bringing the bright yellow-and-green clad fans roaring to their feet for a soaring shot sparingly hit by the home team. The two-run homer sliced Seattle’s lead to 5-2 and gave A’s faithful some hope they might’ve finally signed some pop.
“I’ve hit longer home runs in Cuba,” Cespedes said. “For me, I just want to bring the power to the team. I tried to get a good pitch and make better contact.”
Cespedes’ home debut wasn’t a complete success. He also struck out with two on in the sixth and again in the eighth after Jonny Gomes’ run-scoring single to finish 1 for 4.
The Mariners added two more runs in the sixth off reliever Jordan Norberto to go ahead 7-2, spoiling one of Oakland’s biggest nights of the year and setting the stage to take the season-opening series. Seattle will send ace Felix Hernandez to the mound opposite fellow right-hander Bartolo Colon for Saturday night’s finale.
The Mariners pushed Hernandez’s second start back so he could pitch the home opener in Seattle next Friday against Oakland.
NOTES: Oakland RF Josh Reddick is learning to speak a few Spanish words now that Cespedes is in center. Asked how the two communicate, Reddick joked, “As long as he knows how to say ‘I got it,’ we’re good. I don’t want to run into that brick wall.” … A moment of silence was held before the game for victims of a shooting at nearby Oikos University on Monday that killed seven people. … Gene Tenace, who won the 1972 World Series MVP for Oakland, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.