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Poor Defense and Pitching Cost Oakland Athletics in Opening Day Loss to Mariners

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Poor Defense and Pitching Cost Oakland Athletics in Opening Day Loss to Mariners
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The offseason buildup and hype surrounding the 2011 Athletics mostly centered on the improved offense that would support the teams solid pitching and defense.

Thankfully, the baseball season consists of 162 games, because after the Opening Day loss to the Seattle Mariners, that offseason assessment of this team took a major hit.

Newly-acquired Josh Willingham got the Athletics on the board first with his two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning with two outs. Coco Crisp, who singled to open the inning, scored on Willingham's two-out blast. Unfortunately for the A's, that would be the final positive for their offense against Felix Hernandez.

Hernandez only allowed three additional hits after Willingham's home run, along the way to striking out five Athletics.

For the A's, Trevor Cahill had a respectable performance as he worked his way out of two bases-loaded situations. Cahill struck out eight Mariners through 4.2 innings. Cahill's only run allowed came in the top of the third inning.

Ichiro Suzuki and Chone Figgins both singled, followed by a walk to Milton Bradley to load the bases. Former Athletic, Jack Cust, then walked to force in the only run Cahill would allow.

The Athletics bullpen, which has been hyped as one of the best in baseball, had an off-night in relief of Cahill. Jerry Blevins lasted only 0.2 innings and allowed a run. Craig Breslow entered in relief of Blevins and allowed three runs in 0.2 innings, including a home run to left field by Figgins.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Willingham drives home Crisp on a 2-out, 2-run homer in the first off Felix Hernandez

The Athletics defense also failed them on Opening Night. The A's committed five errors in their first game of 2011. Kevin Kouzmanoff made errors on back-to-back plays in the top of the fourth inning (the first two-error game of his career). Daric Barton, Brad Ziegler and Cliff Pennington each had one error as well.

"Just a poor night all the way around. Too many walks, too many errors," manager Bob Geren said in his post-game media interview (as seen on CSNBayArea). "You're not going to see that from this club very often. That's not the recipe that we need to win."

Felix Hernandez cruised through his outing. The only blemish on his night was the first-inning home run. Hernandez briefly found himself in trouble in the bottom of the eighth inning after hits to Landon Powell and Mark Ellis.

Hernandez would get Kouzmanoff to ground out to third. Ryan Sweeney, pinch hitting for Cliff Pennington, would then ground into a double play to bail out King Felix.

Hernandez would return to pitch the ninth inning and finish his Opening Day complete game, the 14th of his career, as he looks to carry over his Cy Young performance from 2010 into the new season.

The A's and Mariners will play the second game of their three-game opening series tomorrow evening at 6:05 p.m. Brett Anderson will start for the Athletics on Saturday night.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Olivo collides with Kurt Suzuki, spraining his left ankle during the play.

 

Notes

  • Willingham's home run made him the 10th player in club history to homer in his first at-bat as an Oakland Athletic. The most recent player to accomplish this feat was Frank Thomas in 2010.
  • Cahill's eight strikeouts are the most by an A's pitcher on Opening Day since Mark Mulder in 2002 (also eight strikeouts).
  • Kurt Suzuki was injured in a collision at the plate with Seattle's Miguel Olivo. Olivo landed on Suzuki's left ankle. Suzuki stayed in the game to finish the inning, but was replaced in the bottom half of the inning by backup catcher Landon Powell. Following the game, Geren said Suzuki's injury is currently classified as a sprained ankle, and that he will be listed as day-to-day and reevaluated tomorrow.
Seattle AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
Suzuki, I, RF  4 1
2
1
1
0
4
.500
Figgins, 3B  5 1
2
1
0
2
4
.400
Bradley, LF  4 0
0
0
1
2
2
.000
Cust, DH  2 1
0
1
3
1
1
.000
Smoak, 1B  4 1
1
0
1
2
4
.250
Olivo, C  5 1
2
1
0
2
1
.400
Langerhans, CF  4 0
0
0
0
3
4
.000
Ryan, B, SS  3 1
0
1
1
0
1
.000
Wilson, J C  3 0
1
0
0
1
1
.333
                 
Oakland AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
Crisp, CF  3 1
1
0
0
0
0
.333
Barton, 1B  3 0
0
0
0
0
1
.000
DeJesus, RF  3 0
1
0
0
0
1
.333
Willingham, LF  3 1
1
2
0
1
1
.333
Matsui, DH  3 0
0
0
0
0
1
.000
Suzuki, K, C  2 0
0
0
0
0
0
.000
  - Powell, L, C  1 0
1
0
0
0
0
1.000
Ellis, 2B  3 0
1
0
0
1
0
.333
Kouzmanoff, 3B  3 0
0
0
0
1
2
.000
Pennington, SS  2 0
0
0
0
0
0
.000
  - Sweeney, PH
 1 0
0
0
0
0
2
.000
  - LaRoche, SS
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
---
                 
Seattle IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Hernandez, F (W, 1-0)
 9.0  5 2
2
 0  5 1
 2.00
                 
Oakland IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Cahill, T  4.2 3
1
1
4
8
0
1.93
Blevins, J 0.2 0 1 1 1 1 0 13.50
Breslow, C (BS, 1) (L, 0-1)
0.2 3 3 3 1 1 1 40.50
Ziegler, B 0.1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0.00
Cramer, B  1.2 0
0
0
1
1
0
0.00
Wuertz, M 1.0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0.00

 

Brandon McClintock covers the Oakland Athletics and Major League Baseball for BleacherReport.com. You can follow him on Twitter:  @BMcClintock_BR.

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