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April 7, 2012 at 8:27 PM

Mariners at Oakland Athletics: Felix Hernandez looks for some velocity

This game is suddenly far too close for comfort after Felix Hernandez staggered to the finish line, then saw Steve Delabar give up a three-run homer to Yoenis Cespedes. It’s now an 8-7 game with two innings still to play.
Hernandez never looked the same after that big fourth inning by the Mariners and was fortunate to get out of that earlier bases-loaded, none out situation with only one run allowed. He was pulled this time with two on and one out in the seventh. Lucas Luetge made a great debut by striking out Josh Reddick on three pitches, but Delabar fell behind Cespedes and could not catch up.
Hernandez gets tagged for six earned runs over 6 1/3 innings. Not his best outing.
8:05 p.m.: Felix Hernandez appeared to be slowing down in that sixth inning and the A’s made him pay, with Kurt Suzuki doubling home a pair of runs off the wall in left-center. Very nearly a three-run homer, but the A’s stopped scoring from there. Best ball Suzuki has hit all season so far.
M’s lead it 8-4 in the seventh.
7:57 p.m.: And the rampage continues for the Mariners, with Michael Saunders going deep to right in the sixth inning to make it 7-2. Jemile Weeks had homered off Felix Hernandez in the fifth, but this game is pretty much academic now.
I passed Jack Zdurienck in the hallway and he told me how impressed he was with Weeks, who he originally drafted while with the Brewers in 2005. Weeks wound up going back to school and was later taken by Oakland in the first round in 2008.
His older brother, Rickie Weeks, was also drafted by the Brewers and is now a mainstay with that club.
BTW, Zduriencik is impressed with Saunders as well so far.
7:27 p.m.: Oakland somehow loaded the bases with none out against Felix Hernandez in the fourth, then promptly blew its chances of getting back in the game. The A’s managed a lone run on a sac fly to center by Seth Smith before Kurt Suzuki and Cliff Pennington both popped out.
So, the M’s lead it 7-1 in the fifth against a team that appears to lack the ability to score more than a handful of runs per game. Hernandez will savor the moment, no doubt.
7:16 p.m.: Seattle put on another hitting display in the fourth inning, scoring six to take a 7-0 lead off Bartolo Colon, who was roundly — accent on round — booed by the home fans. Some of the booing should have gone to the fielders as it helped that Yoenis Cespedes turned a pretty routine liner to center by Ichiro into an RBI triple. Cespedes started in on the ball, then backpedaled in a huge hurry.
Justin Smoak then blooped a single into right field for another run and the rout was on. Kyle Seager added a single one out later and then Miguel Olivo drove another run in with a single. Munenori Kawasaki then hit a two-out grounder than got on through the left side for his first big league hit and then a terrible throw home by Coco Crisp gave Kawasaki his first big-league RBI.
The runners moved to second and third on the error and Chone Figgins cashed both in with a hard double to right. Yep, that Figgins. Second extra-base hit of the game.
6:27 p.m.: Didn’t take very long for the Mariners to break through against Bartolo Colon in this one. Chone Figgins had a trememndous, eight-pitch at-bat in which he lined a triple to right field to open the game. Dustin Ackley then brought him home with a groundout to the right side for a 1-0 lead.
Felix Hernandez got the velocity up a bit, topping out at 93 mph and regularly hitting 91 mph in a perfect bottom of the first that saw him notch a pair of strikeouts.
6:00 p.m.: We’ve heard all about the supposed diminished velocity in Felix Hernandez’s game. You never can trust radar guns 100 percent, but enough people have commented on the velo drop that it seems to be legit.
Tell you what, though. If Hernandez repeats what he did against the A’s in Japan, no one’s really going to care about velocity — which can be an overrated component in a starting pitcher. Much of a pitcher’s game involves changing speeds, getting differential on speeds and putting pitches in the right location.
Hernandez had no trouble doing that his last time out. So, we’ll see how he looks tonight and whether the velocity builds as the season moves along.
On the other side, the A’s throw out Bartolo Colon, who handcuffed Seattle on three hits through eight innings in Japan. The M’s will have to improve on that.
As usual, you can follow along here and — for more instant updates — on my @gbakermariners Twitter account.


The lineups:
MARINERS
LF Chone Figgins
2B Dustin Ackley
RF Ichiro
1B Justin Smoak
DH Jesus Montero
3B Kyle Seager
C Miguel Olivo
CF Michael Saunders
SS Munenori Kawasaki
RHP Felix Hernandez
ATHLETICS
2B Jemile Weeks
LF Coco Crisp
RF Josh Reddick
CF Yoenis Cespedes
DH Seth Smith
C Kurt Suzuki
SS Cliff Pennington
1B Brandon Allen
3B Eric Sogard
RHP Bartolo Colon

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins, Jesus Montero

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