Mariners top A's in season opener
By SPORTS NETWORK
|Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki reacts after hitting a single during the fourth inning of their season opening game against the Athletics in Tokyo on Wednesday, March 28, 2012. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)
TOKYO - Dustin Ackley hit a solo home run and knocked in the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th inning, helping the Seattle Mariners edge the Oakland Athletics, 3-1, in the first game of the 2012 Major League Baseball season from the Tokyo Dome.
Ichiro Suzuki returned to his native land with a 4-for-5 performance at the plate for the Mariners, who finished last in the American League West last year with a 67-95 mark. Suzuki, who had an RBI single in the 11th, is batting No. 3 in the order this season.
Felix Hernandez, making his fifth career Opening Day start, gave up one run on five hits over eight innings. He also fanned six batters. Tom Wilhelmsen (1-0) pitched two scoreless frames to pick up the win.
Kurt Suzuki drove in the lone run for the Athletics, who went 74-88 last season.
Brandon McCarthy allowed one run on six hits over seven full frames. Andrew Carignan (0-1) took the loss after giving up two runs in the 11th.
Seattle has a six-game Opening Day winning streak, while Oakland has lost each of its last eight openers, which is the longest active Opening Day losing streak in the majors and the longest since Philadelphia lost eight straight from 1985-92.
The two teams square off again Thursday in the finale of a brief two-game series.
With the score tied at one, Carignan started on the hill for the A's in the 11th. Brendan Ryan opened the frame with a double to the gap in left-centre field, moved to third on Chone Figgins' sacrifice bunt and scored on Ackley's single up the middle. Jerry Blevins then took over for Carignan, and after Ackley stole second, Ichiro Suzuki hit an RBI single to centre for a 3-1 lead.
Brandon League worked around a two-out single in the bottom of the 11th to record the save.
Ackley got the scoring started with a blast over the wall in centre in the fourth inning. He belted six homers last season.
The A's responded with a run of their own in the bottom half. Cliff Pennington led off with a double to centre and crossed the plate on Kurt Suzuki's two-out double to left.
The game remained tied due to Hernandez's ability to work out of trouble. Oakland left runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and seventh.
The Athletics' best chance to break the tie game came in the sixth, when they put men on the corners with one out. But Kurt Suzuki popped out and Josh Reddick flied out to end the threat.
Ichiro Suzuki tied Ken Griffey Jr's team record for Opening Day hits, set in 1990...Seattle improved to 6-3 all time on Opening Day against the A's, having won the last four...This series marks the fourth season opener in Japan and the first since the Red Sox and A's played in 2008 at the Tokyo Dome. Since 1999, 10 clubs (Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Red Sox and A's) have participated in international openers...Seattle's Jesus Montero, who was acquired from the New York Yankees in exchange for All-Star right-hander Michael Pineda, went 0-for-4 in his Mariners debut...Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes of the A's went 1-for-3 in his MLB debut...Hernandez and Randy Johnson (six: 1992-96, '98) are the only pitchers in franchise history to make five or more Opening Day starts.