Marcos Breton

April 2, 2013

Marcos Breton: A's fall to Mariners, assume place in A.L infamy

The A's set an unwanted American League record with their ninth straight Opening Day loss Monday, a sour stat on an otherwise festive evening that was dampened by a world-class nemesis.

Marcos Breton

Connecting the dots on issues, people and news in the Sacramento region

OAKLAND – The A's set an unwanted American League record with their ninth straight Opening Day loss Monday, a sour stat on an otherwise festive evening that was dampened by a world-class nemesis.

Felix Hernandez, the Seattle Mariners right-hander known as "King Felix," lived up to his growing legend by mowing down the A's with verve and swagger that the young A's could not match – try as they might.

Meanwhile, Mariners hitters opportunistically exploited the momentary wildness of A's starter Brett Anderson – and some over-eagerness by A's right fielder Josh Reddick – for two runs in the fifth inning.

And that was that – Mariners 2, A's 0.

An A's franchise on the rise now owns an A.L. mark of sustained futility previously held by the historically bad Washington Senators.

Amazingly, the A's last opened a season with a win in 2004 – a full two years before Twitter started.

The A's did have their opportunities, though few and far between, to change the narrative.

A's catcher Derek Norris had the best shot when he appeared as a pinch hitter in the eighth with the bases loaded after Hernandez had been lifted from the game.

An announced capacity crowd of 36,067 frustratingly muffled by Hernandez's artistry and darting changeups suddenly made ear-splitting noise.

Truthfully, A's fans had been loud an hour before the first pitch. They were raucous during pregame introductions, when the A's unveiled a logo in left field to commemorate their wholly unexpected division title from last season.

But Norris missed on a big cut from a pitch by reliever Stephen Pryor. Then he hit a fielder's choice grounder to second baseman Dustin Ackley to end the threat.

It was only one game in 162, but a shame nonetheless. Last season was an awakening of a fan base depressed by years of dull teams and uncertainty over where the A's will play.

Suddenly, a young team made up of recent River Cats was doing what it wasn't supposed to do. The A's were winning their division on the last day of the season and giving the big boys of baseball all they could handle.

A's fans found their voice and reveled in their gritty version of success that stands in stark contrast to the regal Giants. A's games are less expensive. The beer is cheaper. The vibe is different in a ballpark built before Americans walked on the moon.

Everyone in baseball questions whether they can do it again and whether last season was a baseball anomaly.

And there were some A's bright spots. Third baseman Josh Donaldson and second baseman Eric Sogard, both recent River Cats, were excellent in the field – though Sogard did kick a grounder for an error.

Anderson began the game by striking out the first four hitters. It's hard to believe considering the great pitchers in A's history, but it was the first time an Oakland pitcher opened by striking out the side on Opening Day.

But Anderson's command faltered in the fifth. He walked Ackley and gave up a single to Brendan Ryan. As Ackley sped toward third, Reddick tried to gun him down from right field and almost did. But the gamble allowed Ryan to advance to second – and Franklin Gutierrez drove in both with a single.

That was more than enough for Hernandez, who had an answer for every A's hitter swinging and missing toward an A.L. record.

Still, it was a great night of baseball.

Call The Bee's Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096. Back columns, www.sacbee.com/breton. Follow him on Twitter @marcosbreton.

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