Dan Haren vs. Felix Hernandez. Safeco roof is open.
Top 1: Ray Fosse says King Felix has added a cutter and a slider in the offseason. Yipes!
First pitch fastball, strike 1 to Kendall. Hernandez nails the outside corner on a 2-2 pitch for a called strike three.
My six-year-old daughter just got home from school, missing her front tooth.
Stewart grounds out on a 2-2 pitch. Bradley gets called out for a check swing on a 2-2 slider. I didn't think he got close to going around.
Hernandez has nasty stuff today, but his control isn't sharp. The A's made him work for his 1-2-3 inning.
Bottom 1: Haren's first pitch was a fastball, nailing the outside corner. Ichiro grounds out on the next pitch. Haren almost hangs a breaking pitch to Beltre, but got it inside enough that Beltre doesn't get all of it. Vidro quickly grounds out to Ellis on a grounder that a lesser second baseman doesn't get to. Haren throws 8 pitches, vs. 17 for Hernandez.
Top 2: Hernandez is nasty enough, but home plate is in shadows now, making it even tougher. Still, the A's are making him work. Piazza strikes out in his first Oakland at-bat. Chavez fouls off a bunch of pitches before grounding out, as does Swisher, who walks. Crosby, as I suspected, doesn't follow his teammates working the count, grounding out on a 1-1 pitch. The A's don't have a hit yet, but Hernandez has thrown 36 pitches.
Bottom 2: Haren has good stuff, too. He has another quick 1-2-3 inning. Total pitch count: 22.
Top 3: Travis Buck's first major league at-bat. Gets frozen on some nasty wrinkly thing on the inside corner, and strikes out. Hernandez only needs 11 pitches to get through the inning, thanks to a quick groundout by Mark Ellis.
Bottom 3: Haren hung a splitter to Yuniesky Betancourt, but with that batter in this ballpark, it's just a long fly ball out. Three outs in the air. Eleven pitches for Haren, as well. After three full innings, one one baserunner combined.
Top 4: Shannon Stewart gets the first A's hit of the year. But Bradley grounds into a DP on the next pitch. No patience at all this inning...three outs on five pitches, giving back the pitch count advantage.
Bottom 4: I hate it when Ichiro leads off an inning. It's such a relief when he makes an out, as he does here with a fly ball to left. Bradley and Ellis almost collide on a popout by Beltre. Vidro gets the first Mariners hit. Haren fell behind 2-0 in the count and challenged Vidro, who just served it up the middle. Now Haren has to pitch from the stretch for the first time. He jams Ibanez on an 0-2 inside fastball, and takes a grounder himself to the bag for a 1-unassisted. Pitch count after 4: Haren 47, Hernandez 52. These guys may both go nine.
Top 5: Chavez and Swisher make outs, but I like their at-bats. Conversely, Crosby looks terrible at the plate. He takes two fastballs right down the chute, then swings at a high hard one up in his eyes. Another 1-2-3 for Hernandez.
Bottom 5: Crosby looks terrible in the field, too, whiffing on an easy grounder by Sexson right at him. Maybe taking the bad at-bat into the field with him, losing concentration. But Haren strands Sexson. Travis Buck makes a nice catch down the line for out #3, and throws the ball into the stands. Don't you think he'd want to keep his first MLB putout?
Top 6: Buck gets his first MLB hit, a rocket double over Ichiro's head. Ellis bunts him to third. Kendall strikes out, after taking a 1-0 fastball down the middle. Argh, I hate that. Stewart strikes out, too.
Bottom 6: With one out, Ichiro singles on a swinging bunt. Time for a steal attempt, obviously. And some throws over to first. Beltre breaks his bat, but muscles it into left field for a single. In a pitchers' duel like this, those are the types of hits that win games. ARGH! Crosby drops an easy double-play throw from Haren. Luckily, Ichiro didn't score. Two errors on Crosby already. Bases loaded, and not a well-hit ball in the inning. Ibanez hits a sac fly, and the Mariners lead, 1-0. The way Hernandez is pitching, that's likely enough to win this game. Then Haren serves up his once-per-game homer to Sexson on a slider that backed up and floated over the middle of the plate, and this game is over. But this is all on Crosby. 4-0 Mariners.
Top 7: Hernandez throws a 3-2 slider to Bradley and walks him. Dude, you have a four-run lead. You have a 97-mph fastball. Challenge him. Hernandez is not getting the call on some inside fastballs to lefties, but if he can ever get that thing to tail back over the black consistently, he'll throw more no-hitters than Nolan Ryan. That thing is impossible to hit. Hernandez challenges the next three batters, and A's succumb meekly. Crosby looks like he needs another month of spring training.
Bottom 7: Jay Witasick is in. Throws it right down the middle to Betancourt, who crushes it probably about as far as he can hit it, which means an easy fly out to left. Crosby doesn't flub a grounder. Ichiro strikes out on a ball in the dirt, and Kendall tries to tag him but can't quite reach him. It was cute little chase. Kendall finally gives up and throws him out, instead.
Top 8: Buck isn't going to see any more fastballs after that double last time up. Gets nothing but junk and strikes out. Betancourt flubs an easy grounder like Crosby did earlier, but nothing comes of it.
Bottom 8: Witasick walks the leadoff guy, Beltre. Vidro tries to hit into another double play, and this time, the A's turn it. Jay Marshall is coming in to get his feet wet. The first MLB player he'll face is Raul Ibanez. Throws a fastball strike on his first pitch. Ibanez hits about seventeen foul balls off his feet, then grounds out to Swisher at first on a 3-2 pitch.
Top 9: After eight innings of Felix Hernandez, J.J. Putz must look relatively easy to hit. Milton Bradley slams a leadoff double off the right-center wall. But Piazza and Chavez ground out, leaving Swisher as the last hope. Swisher flies out to Ichiro, and the Mariners win, 4-0.
Conclusion: Haren and Hernandez were both fabulous today. The game was going to be won by either a lucky break, or a mistake. Or in this case, both: the Mariners got two lucky hits in sixth, and then the costly error by Crosby sealed the A's fate.
Both teams leave the game with an ERA of 0.00. Travis Buck and Jay Marshall got their feet wet--Buck got his first hit, and Marshall got his first out.
You can't draw any conclusions about the A's offense when they're facing a pitcher on his game like King Felix was tonight. I didn't like Crosby's play today on either side of the ball, but given his late start in spring training, it's understandable, and the errors are probably not something that's going to repeat itself all season. If you're going to lose a game, I'd prefer to lose a game like this: a tight game that could go either way, as it's a sign that you can compete, even against one of the top pitching talents in the game.