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Saturday, April 14, 2012 - Page updated at 11:30 p.m.
Home opener not so homey for Mariners
By Geoff Baker
Seattle Times staff reporter
All was quiet in the Mariners clubhouse after the game, just as it had been on the field for nine innings of another forgettable home opener.
The Mariners, lately, have not helped themselves in their annual Safeco Field debuts, delivering performances that tend to leave the boo-birds as the only hoarse-throated fans departing the ballpark.
This latest opening flop, a 4-0 defeat against Bartolo Colon and the Oakland Athletics on Friday night, was too stark a reminder of the past two seasons for those who voiced their displeasure in the game's waning moments.
"It's kind of what we're supposed to do," Kyle Seager said after being held hitless. "Go out there and score runs."
But that's something the Mariners could not do, mustering only three hits in seven innings off Colon, then zero against the Oakland bullpen. It was their third time facing the burly A's starter this season and he again dominated them the way he did in Japan the second game of the season.
Felix Hernandez also was in his third time around against the A's this year and looked better over his seven innings than he had in Oakland last weekend. But the A's scored twice off him in the third inning, and it proved enough to snap his five-game winning streak at home against Oakland.
The A's added a run on a sacrifice fly in the eighth after a passed ball by Miguel Olivo allowed Josh Reddick to take third. Then, in the ninth, Jemile Weeks hit a solo homer off Charlie Furbush to close things out.
A crowd of 46,026 fans at sold-out Safeco Field had little to cheer about, other than a foul ball by Michael Saunders just wide of the right-field foul pole in the fourth inning that was nearly a go-ahead three-run homer. Saunders struck out looking his first three times up against Colon and was visibly upset at the latter two calls.
He didn't want to discuss them afterward.
Seager said he "absolutely" takes it personally when his team gets shut out. The Mariners were blanked by Oakland in their home opener two years ago and got thrashed 12-3 by the Indians in their Safeco debut last season.
Things might have turned momentum-wise in the seventh inning, when, down 2-0, Seager led off with a drive to center that was caught on the run by outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. On replays, Cespedes appeared to trap the ball in his glove and the crowd booed vociferously once seeing the video footage.
Seager said he was too busy running the bases to notice. He likely would have wound up with a leadoff double had he not been called out.
"I saw him dive and kind of roll and come up with the ball," Seager said. "I didn't really get to see whether the ball hit the ground or not. I heard the stadium and they seemed to think so."
Colon had thrown a slider on the pitch, one of the few offerings he left high enough for the Mariners to get good wood on the ball. Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak said he saw a couple of hittable pitches early.
"He gave me two pitches to hit and I fouled them off," Smoak said. "You can't do that. When you get a good pitch to hit, you have to do something with it."
Colon had left a number of his pitches up in the zone last weekend in Oakland when the Mariners pounded him for seven runs over 4-1/3 innings. This time, though, he made far fewer mistakes.
It wasn't until he left the game and reliever Brian Cook walked the first two batters of the eighth that the Mariners had their final chance to get back in a 3-0 game. But Chone Figgins grounded a ball right into Cook's glove to begin a rally-snuffing 1-6-3 double play.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said afterward he didn't think about having Figgins try to bunt the runners over.
"You still have to do more than that," he said. "It's the eighth inning. We're not looking to try to get back into it with a few outs left. We have to try to create an inning there."
And so, after a 4-4 road trip, the Mariners could not build on any momentum in front of probably the largest crowd they'll see this season. Instead, those who shivered through to the end had to be wondering whether the offense will really be all that different than the past few seasons when all is said and done.
Wedge insisted, as he did all spring, that it will be.
"We battled better this time against Colon than in Japan, with nothing to show for it," Wedge said. "These are the types of games when you push forward, some of the at-bats we battled through now will show results later on."
But if seeing is believing, the team won't have created too many converts this time around.
Third time no charm The Mariners' loss to Oakland was their third consecutive defeat in a home opener, by a combined score of 20-3: Year Opponent Score 2010 Oakland 4-0 2011 Cleveland 12-3 2012 Oakland 4-0
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