And so it begins. The Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics started off the 2012 regular season in grand fashion. Both squads put on a quite a performance for 44,000-plus onlookers at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. After a pitching duel consumed regulation and beyond, the Mariners ended things by posting a two-spot in the 11th, leading to a 3-1 victory over the A’s.
More than a few baseball fans may have been caught off guard when they woke up this morning to the news of a Major League Baseball game being played. Not only was a game being played, but a game that counted was being played. Not only was a game that counted being played, but a game that counted was being played in Tokyo, Japan.
While most major league teams are a week away from their Opening Day festivities, the Mariners and A’s rang in the regular season at 6:10 a.m. ET.
Dustin Ackley got the scoring started for Seattle with his leadoff home run to right off of Oakland starter Brandon McCarthy. The A’s responded in the bottom of the frame, as Kurt Suzuki doubled home Cliff Pennington, who led off the inning with a two-bagger of his own.
The only other extra base hit during regulation came off the bat of Cuban sensation Yoenis Cespedes. Oakland’s new center fielder took M’s starter Felix Hernandez deep to center. Unfortunately for the A’s, Cespedes was left stranded on second as King Felix retired the next three batters in order.
Both sides then went quietly into extras. It looked as if Oakland may be able to get something going in the 10th inning after Brandon Allen reached first base on a throwing error by Ackley. However, any momentum was cut short when pinch runner Collin Cowgill was gunned down at second by Mariners backstop Miguel Olivo.
Seattle went on to deliver the deciding blow in the top of the 11th, as Ackley drove in his second run of the opener. The highly-touted youngster singled home Brendan Ryan, who doubled to start the inning. The crowd then erupted as Japanese native Ichiro Suzuki tallied an insurance run with his infield single that plated Ackley.
Mariners reliever Tom Wilhelmsen collected the season’s first victory after his two perfect frames of work, though Hernandez more than earned a win. The right-hander allowed five hits and a single run over his eight innings pitched. Hernandez struck out six and walked none over that span.
McCarthy was also impressive, allowing six hits and one earned run over his seven innings of work. The veteran righty didn’t allow any free passes while punching out three.
Cespedes finished the game 1-3 with the aforementioned double, two strikeouts and a hit by pitch. Cliff Pennington was the only member of the A’s to collect more than one hit.
Suzuki and Ackley combined for six of the Mariners nine hits and all three of the club’s RBI’s. Offseason acquisition Jesus Montero went 0-4 at the plate in his first game as the Mariners designated hitter.
The Mariners and A’s will face off once again tomorrow morning, concluding their short series in Japan. Seattle will send left-hander Jason Vargas to the mound to take on veteran righty Bartolo Colon.