Duchscherer, A’s spoil Seattle’s home opener
SEATTLE – Justin Duchscherer was terrific in his second start in 20 months, pitching into the eighth inning to help the Oakland Athletics ruin the Seattle Mariners’ home opener with a 4-0 victory on Monday.
Cliff Pennington homered and Gabe Gross had a two-run single for Oakland, off to a surprising 6-2 start.
Duchscherer (1-0) allowed two hits and walked two in 7 1-3 innings. The right-hander, a two-time All-Star, missed last season because of an elbow injury and was later treated for clinical depression.
Former Mariners star Randy Johnson sent a charge through the Safeco Field crowd with a ceremonial first pitch but Seattle still dropped to 2-6 after entering the year with playoff aspirations following a splashy offseason. It’s the Mariners’ worst start since beginning 1-7 in 2004.
Ryan Rowland-Smith (0-1) allowed just three hits in seven innings for Seattle, but issued a career-high five walks and allowed four runs.
The 32-year-old Duchscherer didn’t make his spring debut until March 22. Then he allowed five runs and seven hits over 5 2-3 innings in a no-decision last week against Seattle, a game that the A’s won late.
His second start since Aug. 18, 2008, was even better. He twice struck out Ken Griffey Jr., the second time with the tying run on third in the fourth inning.
Only one other Seattle runner got past first base on Duchscherer after that.
Duchscherer was an All-Star in 2005 and ’08 before the problems with his back, hip, elbow and depression. He’s still on an amended training schedule designed to preserve his back.
Rowland-Smith didn’t allow a hit until the sixth – and it hurt. Pennington, the No. 9 hitter, lined an 0-2 pitch over the roof of Oakland’s bullpen bench for his second homer of the season.
Pennington’s drive made it 2-0, a considerable deficit considering the way Seattle has hit so far this season. The Mariners, who were averaging three runs before Monday’s game, had just three baserunners and one hit in the first six innings.
Oakland added two more in the seventh. With two out and runners on second and third, catcher Rob Johnson could not hold on to a two-strike foul tip by Gross. Given the reprieve, Gross celebrated his first start with the A’s by driving in two with a single.
Randy Johnson got a warm welcome from the sellout crowd of 45,876 before he fired a strike to his former Mariners catcher, Dan Wilson, minutes before the game.
The 46-year-old Big Unit, a five-time Cy Young Award winner who rose to prominence with Seattle in the 1990s, looked tanned and relaxed in a black, open-collared shirt and jeans. He tossed the ball about 20 rows back into the lower seats behind the Mariners dugout as he walked off the field with Griffey, Wilson, and fellow former teammates Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner.
The crowd roared – for one of the last times of the day.
NOTES: Mariners RF Ichiro Suzuki received his ninth consecutive Gold Glove trophy and his third career Silver Slugger bat before the game. … A’s manager Bob Geren said 2B Mark Ellis might miss two days with a strained hamstring. He was injured Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels. … The Mariners announced OF Ryan Langerhans had cleared waivers and was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.
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