After getting mowed down by Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez last weekend, the Oakland Athletics can’t be looking forward to facing him again.
Set to make his home debut, Hernandez tries to win his first three starts for the first time in his career Friday night in the opener of a three-game set against the surging Athletics.
Hernandez (2-0, 1.88 ERA) has been especially sharp in the early going, striking out 19 and walking two while holding opponents to a .185 average. The All-Star right-hander led the Mariners in a 10-3 road win over the Angels on opening day, then baffled the Athletics in Saturday’s 3-1 victory by the Bay.
Hernandez carried a shutout into the ninth inning before giving up a home run to Jed Lowrie. He threw 72 of his 101 pitches for strikes.
"I would say for seven innings, that might be the best I’ve seen him," A’s manager Bob Melvin told MLB’s official website. "Especially early on, it looked like he had a little more hop on his fastball. He mixed in his breaking ball a little bit more and then he always has the changeup whenever he wants it."
Hernandez is 3-1 with a 1.24 ERA against the A’s since the start of last season, striking out 30 and walking four over 29 innings. Josh Donaldson hasn’t been able to figure him out, going 0 for his last 13 with seven strikeouts in their matchups. Yoenis Cespedes is 1 for his last 12 against him.
"I’m going to attack the hitters the same way I did last time," Hernandez said. "If I have to make an adjustment, I’m going to make an adjustment."
Seattle (5-3) dropped two of three in Oakland, then split a two-game set against the Angels after falling 2-0 in Wednesday’s finale. Abraham Almonte’s single in the third inning was the Mariners’ lone hit.
"I thought we had good at-bats – not overly successful – but they were good at-bats," said manager Lloyd McClendon, whose team is hitting .228. "Those things happen."
The A’s (6-3) have won four in a row after sweeping a three-game set at Minnesota. Donaldson went 2 for 5 with a homer and three RBIs and Sam Fuld also went deep in Thursday’s 6-1 victory.
Oakland has averaged 6.8 runs since being limited to 14 during its 2-3 start. The starting rotation has been solid throughout, compiling a 1.93 ERA while allowing three runs or fewer in all nine games.
"They’ve done a great job. So far, so good," Donaldson said. "Can’t really complain about what they’ve done. That’s what we expect from them."
The A’s are hoping to see that trend continue behind Tommy Milone, who will make his season debut. The left-hander’s first turn in the rotation was skipped following last Friday’s postponement.
Milone went 12-9 with a 4.14 ERA in 28 games – 26 starts – last season. He is 3-3 with a 3.28 ERA in eight career outings against the Mariners after losing his last two.
While Oakland’s starters have thrived, Jim Johnson was removed from the closer role after allowing seven runs in his first five appearances spanning 3 1-3 innings. Dan Otero, Ryan Cook, Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle are all expected to help fill in.
"There’s no timetable. Let’s just get him straightened out," Melvin said of Johnson, who had an AL-high 50 saves for Baltimore last year. "And we have plenty of options. That’s the good thing about our team, our versatility. We’ll play it by ear based on how the game’s going, who’s available on that particular day."