Euphoric after a rousing victory in the season opener Wednesday, the Seattle Mariners (1-1) crashed hard Thursday, reverting to the offensive feebleness that marked the past two years, while allowing a cascade of long balls in a 4-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics (1-1) at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. At least the Mariners didn't suffer long: The A's put them out of their misery in a quick 2:23.
The Mariners' offense eked out just three hits, including Justin Smoak first home run of the season, undermining a splendid start by Jason Vargas. Meanwhile, Yoenis Cespedes slammed a two-run home run off reliever Shawn Kelley in the seventh inning and Josh Reddick followed with a solo shot off George Sherrill as the two new Oakland outfielders provided all the punch the Athletics needed.
Oakland DH Jonny Gomes provided an insurance run with another long ball, this one off Steve Delabar, in the eighth inning.
Oakland starter Bartolo Colon, the 38-year-old veteran whose salad days seemed to be behind him, breezed through six innings on 65 pitches while allowing Seattle just two hits. In fact, Colon had a no-hitter going until the fifth when Jesus Montero, Seattle's big off-season acquisition, slapped a single to right for his first hit as a Mariner.
"I mixed my pitches well," Colon said. "I tried to go inside with my two-seamer and outside with my fastball."
Vargas answered Colon effectively, working 6.1 innings while allowing just one run on two hits before manager Eric Wedge lifted him after 85 pitches. At one point, Vargas retired 13 consecutive A's.
Kelley, who entered with a runner on first and one out in the seventh inning, promptly yielded a two-run homer to Cespedes, the A's new Cuban import playing in his second major league contest.
"He's getting more and more comfortable every day," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of Cespedes. "The challenges he faces on the field are probably the easiest for him. He's been dropped into a situation that is difficult both on and off the field."
After going 4-for-5 in the season opener, Ichiro went 0-for-4, his batting average plunging to .444. However, in the fifth inning, he excited the Tokyo Dome crowd by making a leaping catch up against the wall in right to take away a base hit from Kurt Suzuki.
Chone Figgins, Seattle's new leadoff hitter, also went 0-for-4 and is hitting .125. Dustin Ackley, the batting hero of Game 1, also put up an 0-for-4, whiffing twice.
The Mariners left for Arizona immediately after the game, and will resume their Cactus League schedule Saturday with a split-squad game against the San Diego Padres in Peoria. Following four more spring training exhibitions, the Mariners and Athletics will resume the regular season with a two-game series at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum on April 6-7.
Seattle then plays a quartet at Texas April 9-12 before returning to Safeco Field for their home opener against Oakland April 13. The Mariners have yet to announce their pitching probables for the home stand which runs through April 22 and features visits by the Cleveland Indians April 17-19 and Chicago White Sox April 20-22.
- After two games, the Mariners are 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and have left 17 runners stranded.
- The Mariners drew just one walk, that by Saunders in the fifth inning.
- Wedge used Figgins in left field in place of Mike Carp and started Kyle Seager at third base. Seager went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Carp suffered a sprained right shoulder diving for a double hit by Oakland's Kurt Suzuki in Wednesday's game. The Mariners placed him on the 15-day DL.
- To replace Carp on the roster, the Mariners recalled OF Carlos Peguero from AAA Tacoma
- The top three hitters in the Mariners order — Figgins, Ackley and Ichiro — went 0-for-12 with four strikeouts.
- This is the fourth year that Major League Baseball has opened its regular season in Japan. The New York Mets and Chicago Cubs opened in Tokyo in 2000, followed by the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay (2004), and Boston and Oakland (2008). Seattle and Oakland had been scheduled to play at the Tokyo Dome in March 2003, but the series was scrapped because of the threat of war in Iraq.
- For the two games between Seattle and Oakland, Japanese fans paid anywhere from $20 for a standing room ticket to $254 for a seat behind home plate.
- For taking part in this series, Mariners and Athletics players will be paid about $45,000 each for making the trip. The clubs will be paid approximately the same revenues they would have received if the series had been held in Oakland.
- Former Seattle closer Kazuhiro Sasaki threw out the ceremonial first pitch.