OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Yoenis Cespedes announced his presence as a big-time player in the first series of his major league career.
Once again, the Oakland Athletics are still waiting to do the same.
Cespedes rebounded after misplaying a ball in center field to hit his third home run of the season, but Oakland's rally from seven runs down came up just short in an 8-7 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night.
``It's not normal for a rookie,' Cespedes said of his simmering start. ``I'm just happy because I feel lucky to hit three home runs in my first four games. I never did that before in Cuba.'
If only Oakland's pitching staff could keep it close enough to make the runs count.
Chone Figgins finished a home run short of the cycle and every Mariners starter had a hit, overcoming a shaky outing from ace Felix Hernandez.
Figgins' two-run double off Bartolo Colon (1-1) highlighted a six-run fourth - helped by Cespedes misplaying a ball earlier in the inning - to give Seattle a 7-0 lead. Ichiro Suzuki also had two hits and an RBI and Kyle Seager singled twice as the Mariners took the season-opening series 3-1, splitting the first two in Japan and taking both in Oakland.
``We didn't play very well early in the game, but we preserved and made up for it later,' A's manager Bob Melvin said. ``We played good defense after that. It's not an inning certainly, you'd use as a teaching clinic. But you have to get past it, don't put your head down and keep playing, there's a lot of game left, and we played better in the second half of the game.'
Just too many mistakes too early.
Cespedes atoned for his mistake with a three-run homer against reliever Steve Delabar, the third long ball in four games by the powerful Cuban defector. He also hit a towering shot to center a night earlier in his stateside debut.
Hernandez (1-0) gave up six runs on eight hits in 6 1-3 innings, striking out seven and walking one. Brandon League pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save this season, one of four Seattle relievers to hold off Oakland's comeback.
A night after chasing Brandon McCarthy in five innings, Seattle quickly pounced on another A's starter.
Colon allowed seven runs and 10 hits in 5 1-3 innings, struggling to keep the ball down against a patient Mariners offense. He still seemed to be in control early, striking out three and walking none.
``Maybe it was because the first time (in Japan), they don't see me too much,' Colon said. ``And now, they see me again, and they probably checked a lot of videos and find out the best way to make contact.'
One misjudgment is all it took to spark the Seattle offense.
With a runner on first in the fourth, Cespedes broke in two steps on a line drive to center by Suzuki until he realized the ball was carrying fast in the thin Bay Area air. He hustled back, leaped for a catch and the ball clipped the top of his glove for a run-scoring triple that started a Seattle surge.
``I saw the ball well of the bat, but the way the ball was coming, I lost it a little bit in the stands,' Cespedes said. ``And when I tried to go back, it was too late.'
The Mariners sent 10 batters to the plate during the six-run inning. The last came when Figgins lined a two-run double to right that extended Seattle's lead to 7-0, bringing out boos for the second straight night from a frustrated fan base that's letting out its displeasure even earlier this season.
This time, Oakland didn't go out with a whimper.
Hernandez hit Cespedes in the back - the Cuban said he was ``100 percent sure' it was intentional after he stared at his homer a night earlier - to load the bases in the bottom of the forth, then forced three fly outs to end the inning. Seth Smith's sacrifice fly to center put Oakland on the board.
The 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner never looked in rhythm, and the A's finally made him pay late.
Jemile Weeks sent an 0-1 fastball over the left field fence in the fifth, and Kurt Suzuki doubled to drive in a pair of runs in the sixth, slicing Seattle's lead to 8-4 after Michael Saunders hit a solo home run in the top of the inning.
Hernandez was lifted with an out in the seventh after allowing a pair of singles, giving Oakland's only power source a chance to bat with baserunners. And he didn't disappoint - again.
Cespedes clobbered a three-run homer to right-center - not quite the soaring shot he clocked off the second-deck facade in center Friday - off Delabar to bring Oakland with a run. But the A's never even put another runner on base over the final seven outs.
NOTES: Weeks' twisted his left ankle running out a ground out in the ninth. His ankle was wrapped up in the clubhouse but said he should be fine. ... Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson attended Oakland's batting practice with two of his young children. ... Both teams are off Sunday off. Seattle will start RHP Hector Noesi on Monday at Texas, which has Japanese sensation Yu Darvish set to make his major league debut. LHP Tom Milone is scheduled to start for the A's on Monday when they host Kansas City, which will have righty Luis Mendoza on the mound.
The Associated Press News Service
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