Felix is Felix … and Ryan carries the offense
It wasn’t perfect, thanks to a John Jaso double in the fourth and two later hits by the A’s, but Felix Hernandez was as dominant as you can hope from a starting pitcher in his first outing in Monday’s 2-0 Opening Day win.
One thing I didn’t realize as I was writing my game story on deadline. Hernandez has actually had a better Opening Day start than this one. He shut out the A’s for eight innings on three hits with two walks and 12 strikeouts in a 4-0 win back in his first opener in ’07 at the ridiculous age of 21.
But Monday’s blanking of an A’s team that just won the AL West last year was pretty imposing. Remember when people were worried there was some issue with Hernandez’s elbow during his contract extension talks? Never mind those concerns.
Felix is clearly still Felix and that’s a good thing for a Mariners team that could surprise people if it can get some consistent offense. But, yeah, about that. After slugging home runs in 32 of their 33 spring games and leading the world in long balls in Arizona, they managed five singles on Monday, two of those of the infield variety.
But with Felix, it doesn’t take a lot. He won four 1-0 shutouts a year ago, so two runs was reason to celebrate. Which he did when Brendan Ryan made a tremendous play at shortstop to save a run in the fourth after his old buddy Jaso had advanced to third.
Ryan, it turns out, was the Player of the Game (non-Felix division), as he reached base all three at-bats with a single and two walks and scored one of the runs. And yeah, he enjoys seeing his batting average at 1.000 after one game, given the .194 he finished with a year earlier after a year-long duel with the Mendoza Line.
“I’ll take that all year,” he said with a laugh.
There were lots of smiles in the clubhouse after this one, which is what happens when you win and get help from lots of places — Franklin Gutierrez with the winning two-run single, Dustin Ackley with the aggressive base-running to get he and Ryan into position to score those two runs, Stephen Pryor coming in and getting the groundout on a bases-loaded jam in the eighth, Tom Wilhelmsen dropping the hammer in the ninth, Jesus Montero getting kudos from Hernandez for working a strong game behind the plate.
So here they are, yup, tied with the Astros and Angels atop the AL West at 1-0. And we’ve only just begun.