Anderson impresses but A's offense overmatched
OAKLAND -- A's lefty Brett Anderson did his best Felix Hernandez impression on Monday. Unfortunately, so did Felix Hernandez.
Sent to the mound on Opening Day for the first time in his career, Anderson looked like he had been out there before, utilizing any extra adrenaline as an asset, striking out the first four Mariners batters he faced. He wouldn't allow a run until the fifth.
Hernandez didn't allow a run through 7 2/3 innings, and the A's found themselves on the wrong end of an Opening Day contest for a ninth straight year in a 2-0 loss, marking the longest such losing streak in American League history.
Each of the last four has come against Hernandez, and the A's are understandably a little tired of his act. They surely would like to believe that Monday's loss wasn't a preview of what's to come over the next 161 games but, rather, just one loss to one of the game's best.
"It's disappointing to lose on Opening Night. It's your first look. Your fans are out in full force," said manager Bob Melvin. "We played well with the big crowds in our stadium for the better part of last year, so it's disappointing. You want to win. Typically you do get someone's ace and Felix is the best in the game, and we just couldn't muster anything off him."
The outcome wasn't ideal of course, but the A's have to like knowing that they're going to have Anderson on their side more times than they're going to have Hernandez on the other side. If they get the type of performance Anderson displayed on Monday every fifth day going forward, perhaps minus the four walks he uncharacteristically issued, then they're bound to rack up some wins.
Though overshadowed by the brilliance of Hernandez, who didn't give up a hit until the fourth inning, Anderson was impressive in front of a rowdy sold-out crowd, allowing the Mariners just four hits through seven innings of two-run ball and striking out six in the 108-pitch effort.
Relievers Chris Resop and Jerry Blevins followed with a perfect inning apiece.
"When you're matched up against someone of Felix's caliber, you know runs are going to be at a premium for the most part, and I gave up more than he did," Anderson said. "He's a tremendous pitcher, obviously, $175 million worth. You go out there and try to throw up zeros because the track record says he's going to do it, too, and I was able to do that except one inning, and it turned out to cost us."
Anderson walked Dustin Ackley with one out in the fifth, and Brendan Ryan followed with a hit to right field, where Josh Reddick found the ball and fired it to third base in an attempt to nail down Ackley. The Mariners' second baseman was deemed safe, and Ryan ended up on second base, allowing Franklin Gutierrez's ensuing single to plate two runs.
"If he doesn't walk that guy it's a totally different ballgame," catcher John Jaso said. "But I was definitely impressed with Brett. The lights come on, and it's a different guy out there. He's competitive, and he's throwing the ball hard. That performance that he gave out there, that's definitely one that deserves a win."
Anderson, 25, induced 10 groundouts to just three in the air, relying on a handful of strong defensive plays to help him along the way.
Just a little bit of offense could've really helped.
Easier said than done, though, when Hernandez is on the hill. It was the fifth straight Opening Day start for the 26-year-old, and he looked to be in midseason form with a three-hit outing that included eight strikeouts.
Jaso, who just a couple of hours before game time received a Rolex wristwatch from former teammate Hernandez as a thank-you gesture for last year's perfect game, thanked him back by knocking a double off him with one out in the fourth to wipe away any chance of another perfecto.
"He broke the no-hitter," Hernandez said. "I was going to say, 'Dude, what time is it?' But no, no, it's a baseball game."
"He grinned at me when I got that hit," Jaso said. "I was going to get a hit. I wasn't going to let him get a perfect game."
It wasn't until the sixth when the A's would again reach base, with Seth Smith collecting a leadoff single. Smith never made it to second base -- not during that inning, at least. Oakland's designated hitter did find his way to the bag in the eighth by way of a two-out double to right field, and Eric Sogard's ensuing walk forced Hernandez out of the game at the 109-pitch mark.
Lefty Charlie Furbush proceeded to walk Coco Crisp to load the bases, but right-hander Stephen Pryor was brought in to face Derek Norris and got the pinch-hitter to ground out to end the A's threat. Oakland again came up empty in the ninth, as the walk-off pies -- the A's used 15 last year -- remained stored for another day.
"A lot of times it's one hit, one play, when you have two top-of-the-rotation guys, and that's what it was tonight," Melvin said. "You're going to take seven innings and two runs any time from your starter."