Felix shakes off A's first-pitch HR, wins 15th
SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz clubbed his Major League-leading 39th home run and Felix Hernandez pitched eight innings of two-run ball to win his 15th game of the season, an 8-2 decision over the A's on Wednesday as the Mariners wrapped up a series win at Safeco Field.
Hernandez gave up a leadoff homer to Billy Burns and a seventh-inning shot to Brett Lawrie, but allowed just those two runs and three hits with one walk and seven strikeouts. Hernandez (15-8, 3.66) had an 8.48 ERA over his previous five starts, but he dominated the A's to move into a tie with Dallas Keuchel of the Astros for the most wins in the American League.
"My location was way better," said Hernandez. "I found some tweaks with my mechanics and I felt better today."
A's rookie right-hander Chris Bassitt gave up four runs -- the most he's allowed in a game in his 10 starts this year -- along with seven hits and five walks in 4 1/3 innings, as he fell to 1-6 with a 2.82 ERA. Kyle Seager and Cruz hit back-to-back homers off reliever Fernando Abad in the eighth as Seattle raised its season record against Oakland to 9-4.
"I gotta make some adjustments, I guess, but I just didn't feel good at all today," Bassitt said. "Just physically didn't feel good. It's late in the year, everyone goes through it, so it's not really an excuse, just something I have to be better at."
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The hits kept coming: The Mariners jumped on Bassitt for four runs and six hits in the first inning, with the last five hits coming in a row with one out. Cruz's RBI single got things going, then Seth Smith laced an RBI double and Mark Trumbo and Logan Morrison added run-scoring base hits to make it 4-1. Cruz wound up going 3-for-4 with a walk and three RBIs, raising his team-leading RBI total to 82 and extending his on-base streak to 36 games, the longest in the AL this year.
"He's having an MVP type of year, there's no question about it," manager Lloyd McClendon said of Cruz. "He's been a force in the middle for us on a very consistent basis." More >
First-pitch frenzy: Burns, who entered the day with a .495 batting average when putting the first pitch in play, naturally swung at his first offering from Hernandez and lined a home run to center field to lead off the game. It was the third home run of the season for Burns, who leads AL rookies with 123 hits.
"Just looking to see the ball out of his hand and put a good swing on a pitch I feel like I can drive," Burns said. "Fortunately he threw a fastball middle-in and I just got the barrel to it." More >
Switching it up: A's switch pitcher Pat Venditte faced Mariners switch-hitting rookie Ketel Marte for the second time in the series in the sixth inning. Venditte threw right-handed to Marte on Monday and got him to ground out to second. This time he threw left-handed, and Marte, batting from the right side, laced a double to left-center before scoring on Cruz's RBI single -- his second of the game -- to give Seattle a 5-1 lead. The 21-year-old Marte went 2-for-5 to complete a six-game homestand during which he batted .458 (11-for-24) with four doubles and a triple to raise his average to .333 in 23 games since being called up.
"That's what your leadoff hitter does, creates havoc," McClendon said. "He gets on and steals bases. He's first to third, steals third. He's shown the ability in a short period of time that he's capable of being a solid leadoff guy."
"I look at the wins. That's my goal. Win games, and the end of the season we can look at the numbers." -- Cruz, after moving one homer shy of 40 for a second straight season
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Burns' first-pitch blast off Hernandez was just the third leadoff homer the Mariners' ace has allowed in 329 career starts. The others were by the Rangers' Ian Kinsler in 2011 and the Blue Jays' Jose Reyes in '13.
A's: The A's will enjoy an off-day in Arizona on Thursday before returning to business Friday for the start of a three-game Interleague series with the host D-backs at Chase Field. Ace Sonny Gray, who leads the American League with a 2.10 ERA, gets the ball in the 6:40 p.m. PT contest.
Mariners: Roenis Elias (4-6, 4.22) returns to the rotation after two months in Triple-A Tacoma, facing lefty Carlos Rodon in Thursday's 5:10 p.m. PT opener of a four-game series against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Elias pitched one scoreless inning in relief since being recalled, and he now replaces Vidal Nuno in the spot originally manned by J.A. Happ before he was traded July 31.
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