SEATTLE (AP) — Billy Burns accomplished what only two others had done, greeting Seattle ace Felix Hernandez with a home run leading off the game. On the first pitch, no less.
That was about all the Oakland Athletics could do against Hernandez on Wednesday.
Hernandez threw eight strong innings, allowing just three hits, Nelson Cruz hit is AL-leading 39th homer and the Mariners closed out their homestand with an 8-2 win over the A’s.
Burns and Brett Lawrie each hit solo homers off Hernandez, both leading off innings. Burns joined Jose Reyes and Ian Kinsler as the only batters to hit leadoff homers against Hernandez in his career. But those were the highlights of an otherwise lackluster day for Oakland.
“He was really effective. He mixed a lot of off-speed. He didn’t really throw me anything else I could hit,” Burns said. “After that first pitch, he settled in and kind of worked us pretty well.”
Hernandez (15-8) allowed the two homers, but Oakland’s only other hit off Hernandez was a soft single from Billy Butler in the fifth. Hernandez struck out seven, walked one and became the second AL pitcher to reach 15 wins, matching his total from last season.
It was an important turnaround for Hernandez after losing his previous two decisions while giving up 14 earned runs and 21 hits in losing to the Red Sox and White Sox. Between Burns’ homer and Butler’s single in the fifth, the only Oakland batter to reach base was Eric Sogard, who was hit by a pitch in the third.
“I found some things with my mechanics and I felt way better today. Fastball was there and I could locate it both sides of the plate,” Hernandez said.
Cruz’s homer came in the eighth off reliever Fernando Abad, but it was an early offensive outburst that backed Hernandez. Seattle sent 10 batters to the plate in the first and scored four times that inning off Chris Bassitt (1-6).
Cruz had an RBI single in the first to score Ketel Marte and the two teamed up again for another run in the sixth off reliever Pat Venditte.
The Mariners strung together five straight hits in the first, beginning with Cruz, and got RBI hits from Seth Smith, Mark Trumbo and Logan Morrison. It was the first time all season Seattle batted through the lineup in one inning.
“I’ve got to make some adjustments, I guess,” said Bassitt, who allowed seven hits, four runs and walked five in 4 1-3 innings. “I just didn’t feel good at all today.”
Burns’ homer was his third of the season and his second career leadoff home run. When he first made contact, Burns thought he was running for a triple as he left the batters’ box.
“It doesn’t matter who it is, it’s pretty special when I can get one out,” Burns said. “I was pretty fortunate just to get the barrel and a good swing there.”
Seattle is bumping Vidal Nuno from his spot in the rotation and inserting left-hander Roenis Elias beginning with Thursday’s series opener in Chicago against the White Sox. But that might not mean Nuno is completely out of the picture. Seattle also announced its Sunday starter in Chicago is “TBA,” a spot that was originally slated for struggling rookie Mike Montgomery.
Oakland starter Felix Doubront is in line to make his start Saturday against Oakland after leaving Monday’s game with a right foot contusion. Doubront had X-rays that came back negative.
Athletics: After an off day, the A’s open a series in Arizona with Sonny Gray (12-5) on the mound. Gray leads the AL with a 2.10 ERA.
Mariners: Elias makes his first start in the majors since July 2 as the Mariners open a road trip against the White Sox. Elias (4-6) lost three of four decisions with the Mariners in June and early July before being sent back to Triple-A Tacoma.