OAKLAND -- An A's team scuffling at the plate and out of rhythm as a result of three postponements in a week certainly didn't need to be seeing Felix Hernandez at the top of his game on Saturday.
Then again, as Jed Lowrie saw it, any extenuating factors like rainouts or hitting funks were irrelevant in Oakland's 3-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners ace before 30,290 at the Coliseum.
"That is a good excuse," said Lowrie. "But we could have been hitting for a month straight and we face that today, it wouldn't have mattered. It was his day."
At least for eight innings it was. Hernandez, who has a 10-game unbeaten streak in Oakland and now owns a 16-7 career record against the A's, allowed just six hits and a walk and struck out eight before running into trouble to start the ninth.
Hernandez (2-0) had only thrown 92 pitches to that point, so it was almost a moral victory that Oakland came very close tying the game against him. Lowrie led off the ninth with a solo homer, Brandon Moss followed with a single and Yoenis Cespedes crushed a ball down the left-field line that was well over the fence but just a few feet foul.
"I knew it was gone, but I could also see the wind blowing it to the left," said Cespedes through interpreter Ariel Prieto. "Next time."
Hernandez subsequently retired Cespedes on a short fly to right, then Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon called in new closer Fernando Rodney, who struck out John Jaso and Josh Reddick in succession to end the game.
"I would say for seven innings, that was probably the best we've seen him," manager Bob Melvin said of Hernandez. "Early on, he had a little more hop on his fastball, mixed in his breaking ball and always has a changeup whenever he wants it."
"You couldn't look for anything, you couldn't guess, he was just unpredictable," said Moss.
For four innings, it looked as though A's starter Dan Straily was up to the challenge. He matched Hernandez pitch for pitch and then some, allowing two singles and striking out seven over the first four shutout innings.
But then Straily, who hadn't been on a mound facing hitters since March 24 and hadn't faced major leaguers since March 19 (his scheduled Bay Bridge Series start last Saturday was rained out), started to feel some effects of his long layoff from a competitive game.
Straily (0-1) gave up four extra-base hits in the fifth, including a two-run homer to Dustin Ackley and a solo shot to Abraham Almonte. Even though he finished strong with a 1-2-3 sixth, the right-hander had put Oakland in a hole it couldn't climb out of against Hernandez.
"I just missed two fastballs that earlier in the game I got swing-throughs," Straily said. "I threw five simulated innings and 75 pitches last weekend, so it's not like it's been forever since I've thrown. You can't simulate the actual game, but as far as being prepared bodywise, I was just fine."
The A's did salvage one good development out of the defeat -- a scoreless, two-strikeout inning from closer Jim Johnson, who suffered two losses in his first week with Oakland.
"The sinker was down, the curveball made them chase, and when he's down, that's when his ball has a lot of action to it," said Melvin. "He may have just been a little jumpy the first couple times, elevating some balls and not staying behind the rubber, but today we saw the stuff we're going to get used to seeing."
Cook faced six batters, allowing two runs, two hits (including a home run) and two walks. His two outs were via strikeouts. Gentry batted leadoff and went 2 for 4 with a double. He also struck out and was thrown out attempting to steal second.
Melvin said it still hasn't been decided when either player would be activated.
He'll rejoin the team in Minnesota on Monday.
Follow Carl Steward on Twitter at twitter.com/stewardsfolly.
Seattle ace Felix Hernandez continued his ownership of the A's on Saturday, allowing one run over 8-1/3 innings to record the win. Here are his career stats against Oakland:
GS W L ERA IP ER
30 16 7 2.60 208 60
Seattle (Erasmo Ramirez 1-0) at A's (Sonny Gray 0-0), 1:05 p.m. CSNCA
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