BY John Hickey 09:34PM 04/21/2011

Hernandez dominates A’s again

Kennedy’s homer and relief help from Wight and League gives Seattle an 1-0 win in series opener against Oakland.

Felix Hernandez shut the A's out for 7.2 innings Thursday in Seattle's 1-0 win. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

From his vantage point in the Seattle bullpen, Jamey Wright turned to his buddies in the pen after watching Mariner starter Felix Hernandez face just a handful of batters Thursday.

“In the second inning,’’ he said, “I said, ‘Felix is on. I could have worn my shower shoes (instead of his spikes) out here today.’ ’’

As it turned out, Wright was right. And wrong. Hernandez was on top of his game, but he did need a little bullpen help to post a 1-0 win over Oakland Thursday. Wright needed his spikes on long enough to get one out with one pitch to strand two runners in the eighth.

Then closer Brandon League scuttled the last Oakland rally attempt to give Seattle the win.

“I was on tonight; I felt good,’’ Hernandez said after bringing his personal two-game losing streak to an end with a 126-pitch night. He’s 4-0 against the A’s since 2009 and he’s won 10 of his last 12 decisions against them. Both of his 2011 wins have come at Oakland’s expense.

That’s not to say that Thursday’s win came easily. Shortstop Brendan Ryan, first baseman Adam Kennedy and third baseman Chone Figgins all turned in above average defensive plays to keep Oakland at bay.

So did the decision five days earlier by manager Eric Wedge to remove Hernandez from a start at Kansas City after just five innings with Seattle down 5-0 to the Royals.

“If we hadn’t pulled Felix then,’’ Wedge said, “we were probably not going to be able to go as far as we did with him tonight.’’

Kennedy’s fourth inning home run off loser Brandon McCarthy put Hernandez ahead, and he nursed that lead into the eighth inning. From the time he got the lead through the seventh, Hernandez didn’t allow a runner to get into scoring position. That ended in the eighth when Cliff Pennington stole second base as Coco Crisp struck out for the inning’s second out.

Hernandez then walked David DeJesus. With two out and two on and 126 pitches on Hernandez’s log, Wedge went to Wright – without the shower shoes.

The veteran threw the pitch he’s known for, a sinker, and Oakland first baseman Conor Jackson hammered it into the ground. Second baseman Jack Wilson fielded the ball and threw Jackson out. Wright has made two appearances on this homestand, has thrown two pitches and gotten three outs – a double play grounder on Tuesday and Thursday’s roller to Wilson.

“He’s amazing, getting just that one pitch like that,’’ Hernandez said. “After 126 pitches, I was done. I have faith in my bullpen.’’

And they have faith in him.

“I like to sit out there and watch one of his bullpens,’’ Wright said of Hernandez. “It’s amazing what he does with a baseball. He’s got four pitches (fastball, change, curve and slider) and they are all above average Major League pitches.

“We’re pretty lucky to have him going every five days.’’

For the first three weeks of the season, the Mariners have been pretty lucky to have Wright. He didn’t give up a run in spring training, and he hasn’t given up a run yet in eight appearances (7.2 innings). And he’s stranded all six runners he’s inherited, too.

This game wasn’t all about pitching. It was about defense, too, something that has been lacking too much of the season for the Mariners. Figgins turned a line drive into a double play in the seventh. Ryan made two good throws from deep short for outs. Kennedy not only dug out those throws from Ryan, but he knocked down a potential double down the line and flipped to Hernandez for the first out of the sixth. And he made an over-the-shoulder catch against the A’s Kurt Suzuki for the second out of the ninth.

“When we pitch and play defense, we’re going to win some games,’’ Hernandez said. “I was thinking, ‘Just get me one run.’ ’’

Kennedy did, and that was the game.

Twitter: @JHickey3


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