OAKLAND (AP) — Mark Ellis drove in three runs to back Gio Gonzalez’s strong 2011 debut and the Oakland Athletics avoided a season-opening weekend sweep by the AL West rival Seattle Mariners with a 7-1 win Sunday.
Coco Crisp hit an RBI triple in the third inning and missed hitting for the cycle by a home run. Hideki Matsui doubled to start the second for his first hit with the A’s after an 0-for-7 start and added an RBI single in a four-run seventh. It also gave the slugger a combined 2,500 hits between his career in Japan and the major leagues.
Ryan Langerhans homered in the second but the Mariners managed little else against Gonzalez, a 15-game winner last season who improved to 5-1 for his career against Seattle.
Gonzalez (1-0), who picked out the new retro bright gold jerseys worn by the A’s for the first time, was unfazed after falling behind on Langerhans’ drive. He allowed six hits, struck out four and walked four in seven innings, working out of a two-on, no-out jam in his final frame.
Oakland observed a pregame moment of silence on Japanese Heritage Day to remember the victims of the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Opening-day uniforms worn Friday and autographed by Ichiro Suzuki and Matsui were auctioned off to aid the Red Cross, raising more than $10,000 between the two.
Ellis’ RBI groundout in the fourth gave the A’s a 2-1 lead. Kurt Suzuki helped set up the run, reaching on a one-out double when Mariners left fielder Milton Bradley lost a fly ball in the sun. The same thing happened Saturday night when Ichiro Suzuki and center fielder Michael Saunders lost track of Daric Barton’s fly.
Oakland, which expects to contend for a division title, earned its first victory of 2011 to keep from starting a season 0-3 for the first time since 1996.
Langerhans also singled for the Mariners, who head to Texas next to face the AL champion Rangers in a three-game series before returning to Safeco Field for their home opener Friday against Cleveland. Seattle’s lone break in the first 24 days of April comes Thursday.
Seattle was trying to move to 3-0 for only the second time in franchise history—joining the 1985 team. It hasn’t swept the A’s in Oakland since Sept. 17-19, 2007. Seattle has only three wins in its last 11 games at the Coliseum.
Ichiro Suzuki finished his first three games at 5 for 12. The leadoff hitter broke Edgar Martinez’s franchise hits record during Saturday night’s 5-2 win.
After getting outscored 11-4 in the first two games of the series, the A’s generated more offense from their upgraded middle of the order.
Oakland tagged Doug Fister (0-1) for three runs—two earned— and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings. Fister lost three of his final four starts in 2010, including his last two.
The A’s, who committed five errors in Friday’s opener and one Saturday, had another in the series finale when Barton dropped Chone Figgins’ popup in foul territory in the first inning.
NOTES: Gonzalez threw 116 pitches, fourth-most of his career. … RHP Josh Lueke made his major league debut when he relieved Fister in the sixth, then RHP Tom Wilhelmsen made his first big league appearance in the eighth. … Mariners closer David Aardsma, recovering from hip surgery, threw a 30-pitch bullpen session and let it go toward the end of his outing with no problems. It was his third bullpen. … These teams will play 16 more times this season, with the A’s visiting Safeco Field for the first time from April 21-24. Oakland took the 2010 season series 13-6. … The A’s and their fans raised more than $65,000 in all for Japan, which included $1 from each ticket Sunday. Suzuki’s uniform sold for $6,015 and Matsui’s went for $4,555.
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