King Felix delivers for Mariners in opening win
King Felix is still on top, all right.
The Seattle Mariners and everybody else received an immediate reminder why this guy is so special - and so darn tough to hit, too.
Hernandez found his dominant Cy Young form in a hurry, pitching a five-hitter for his 14th career complete game and the majors' first this year as the Mariners beat the AL West rival Oakland Athletics 6-2 on Friday night.
He tossed the first complete game on opening day in franchise history, too.
''That's a good outing. The first couple of innings I was a little off the plate, but after that I was throwing a lot of strikes on the corners,'' Hernandez said.
Chone Figgins hit a go-ahead solo home run in the sixth inning off Craig Breslow (0-1). Ichiro Suzuki singled twice, drove in a run and stole a pair of bases as the Mariners won their opener under new manager Eric Wedge to end a five-game losing streak in Oakland. Seattle spoiled the A's opener played before a sellout crowd of 36,067 that included 1,000 standing-room only tickets.
Suzuki moved within one hit of tying Edgar Martinez's franchise record of 2,247.
Hernandez (1-0) dazzled after allowing Josh Willingham's two-run, two-out homer in the first. He faced the minimum in each of the next six innings, allowing only a leadoff single to David DeJesus in the fourth before Landon Powell's base hit to begin the eighth.
''He's never going to give in,'' Figgins said. ''He's not a Cy Young for nothing. He's not one of the best pitchers in the game for nothing.''
Hernandez, who won the 2010 AL Cy Young Award despite only 13 victories, struck out five and didn't walk a batter in a 108-pitch gem. DeJesus struck out swinging to end the 2-hour, 50-minute opener. The right-hander is now 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his four career opening-day outings.
''He's no joke,'' new teammate Jack Cust said.
The previous pitcher to throw a complete game on opening day was Ben Sheets for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to STATS LLC.
''If you talk about opening day, you can't ask for much more than that,'' Wedge said of his ace.
Willingham wasted little time showing why the A's acquired him from Washington this winter to be their new cleanup hitter and upgrade an offense that managed only 109 homers and 663 runs last season, the team's second-fewest in the last 28 non-shortened seasons.
Willingham sent the second pitch he saw from Hernandez over the out-of-town scoreboard in left - the first opening-day homer allowed by Hernandez. Willingham became the 10th player in Oakland history to hit a home run in his first at-bat with the A's. Frank Thomas last did it on April 3, 2006.
''After the first inning I said, 'I'm winning this game and then I'll go a complete game,''' Hernandez said, sporting a big grin.
Cust scored an insurance run against his former club to start the Mariners' three-run seventh, when Oakland committed two of its five errors. A's catcher Kurt Suzuki gave everybody a scare when he went down writhing in pain after being clobbered by a scoring Miguel Olivo, but Suzuki stayed in the game to finish the inning before taking a seat with a mild left ankle sprain. Powell replaced him to start the eighth.
Oakland last committed five errors in a game on July 6, 2007, at home against Seattle. The A's also had four errors during their season-opening 5-3 loss to the Mariners here on April 5 a year ago.
''Just a poor night all the way around. Too many walks, too many errors,'' manager Bob Geren said. ''You're not going to see that from this club very often. That's not the recipe that we need to win.''
Trevor Cahill hung tough in his first opening-day start but labored and saw his pitch count climb in a hurry. The right-hander, an 18-game winner in his second full major league season last year, allowed one run on four hits in 4 2-3 innings, struck out eight and walked four.
Cahill escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth after consecutive errors by third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, who had his first career two-error game. Cahill left with runners on first and second with two outs in the fifth - at 105 pitches.
''I think there were a little more nerves than normal,'' Cahill said of the A's. ''That's not our brand of baseball.''
New designated hitter Hideki Matsui went 0 for 3 and grounded into a double play in his A's debut.
Mark Ellis, who matched his career best with a 13-game hitting streak to end last season, hit an eighth-inning single.
Hundreds of tailgaters took to the parking lot early on a spectacular spring day in the Bay Area, when first-pitch temperature was 64 degrees.
Notes: Hernandez threw 73 of his pitches for strikes. The Mariners twice had pitchers go 8 1-3 innings on opening day. ... Oakland went 7-2 against Seattle at home last season. ... The uniforms worn by Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki will be auctioned off Sunday to aid earthquake and tsunami relief efforts in their native Japan.