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Blanton, Oakland spoil King Felix's debut in Seattle

SEATTLE (AP) -- Unlike many others, Joe Blanton didn't get caught
up in the hype surrounding the 2006 debut of young Seattle phenom
Felix Hernandez.

Blanton simply outpitched and overshadowed the 19-year-old
right-hander.

Blanton threw eight sharp innings of two-hit ball, leading the
Oakland Athletics to a 5-0 win Friday night that snapped the
Mariners' three-game winning streak.

While Hernandez pitched like an inconsistent teenager making his
13th major league start, Blanton (1-0) was outstanding. He allowed
only a groundball single by Jeremy Reed in the third and an infield
hit by Raul Ibanez in the fourth. The right-hander struck out six,
walked one and did not allow a runner to reach second.

"It's one of those where the other pitcher is getting a lot of
attention, but I'm not facing him. I'm pitching against their
lineup," Blanton said. "He doesn't have anything to do with the
way I approach the game."

Blanton retired 10 straight batters during one stretch, but
wasn't allowed to go for the complete game despite throwing only 98
pitches. Justin Duchscherer struck out two in a hitless ninth to
finish the shutout.

"That's about as good a stuff as he's had, the total package,"
Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "The curveball was excellent, the
slider had good depth on it, the changeup was excellent. He threw a
lot of strikes."

Meanwhile, Hernandez (0-1) struggled for stretches on the eve of
his 20th birthday, and yet was barely hittable. He allowed one run
and two hits in five innings, but walked four and threw 100
pitches.

Mark Kotsay doubled home Jason Kendall with one out in the fifth
for Oakland's first run, the only hit Hernandez allowed after the
first.

"I didn't have control of any of my pitches," he said through
a translator. "I was trying to gain control and when I finally did
I was able to do a little better, but not much."

Marco Scutaro hit a two-run triple in the eighth off reliever
Julio Mateo, following walks to Milton Bradley and Dan Johnson.
Kotsay then singled home Scutaro with two outs.

Oakland managed just five hits but took advantage of 11 walks,
six by Mateo. The A's didn't need much offense thanks to Blanton's
performance.

"We were fortunate to get the two hits we got," Seattle
manager Mike Hargrove said.

The A's were extremely patient at the plate against Hernandez,
and his pitch count grew quickly. He threw 25 pitches in the first
inning and was at 50 after three. Nick Swisher was the only batter
to swing at the first pitch in both plate appearances against
Hernandez.

"Obviously, we know he's got electric stuff. We wanted to work
him and get his pitch count up, and we were successful at that,"
Kotsay said.

The right-hander was pitching in a game for the first time since
March 23, skipping his last spring training start to rest some shin
splints. At times, he flashed the talent that has many proclaiming
him as the best young arm in baseball, but the layoff was
noticeable to Hernandez and his manager.

"I think we saw the result of not pitching in a game,"
Hargrove said. "Even at that, they only got two hits off him. But
he was behind a lot of hitters and threw a lot of pitches."

After a walk and a hit to start the game, Hernandez struck out
Eric Chavez and Frank Thomas with nasty curveballs and got a
groundout from Bradley to end the early threat.

Hernandez again showed resolve in the fifth as his pitch count
inched toward the century mark. After Kotsay's double, he hit Mark
Ellis with a 1-2 fastball, but rebounded to strike out Chavez
looking on three pitches, the last his 100th of the game.

Hernandez threw 56 strikes and reached 96 mph on the stadium's
radar gun. He gave up one run and two hits in five innings,
striking out four and walking four.

"I did everything I could," he said. "It was a battle."

Mateo replaced Hernandez in the sixth and walked the bases
loaded with two outs. Swisher then lined a shot off the wall in
center. Thomas scored, but Bradley stopped and went back to third,
appearing to have missed the base.

Reed quickly relayed the ball from center to Willie Bloomquist,
who threw home. Catcher Kenji Johjima threw to Adrian Beltre at
third, who tagged Bradley halfway between third and home to end the
inning.

Seattle got a scare in the eighth when Beltre was hit on the
right wrist sliding into second as Scutaro attempted to turn a
double play. X-rays on Beltre's wrist were negative.

Game notes
Macha plans to play SS Bobby Crosby on Saturday. Crosby
hasn't played since opening day after injuring the index finger on
his left hand. ... Hernandez was the only teenager to make an
opening day roster. ... Beltre was 0-for-2 with a walk on his 27th
birthday.