A's go down swinging (and missing)

Haren brilliant in opening loss to M's

SEATTLE -- A swinging bunt, a bloop, a botched double-play ball and a blast.

They came in rapid fire Monday, and the Mariners used them to not only to spoil an otherwise brilliant effort by A's righty Dan Haren, but also to make sure their own starter's dominance was rewarded with an Opening Day victory.

Haren, who retired the first 11 batters he faced and was working on a one-hitter through five innings, saw his gem-in-progress unravel quickly in a 4-0 loss at Safeco Field that doubled as something of a coming-out party for Seattle phenom Felix Hernandez.

"We just ran into a well-pitched game," said A's manager Bob Geren. "You could tell early, when [Hernandez] was throwing 97, 98 [mph] at the knees ... it was going to be tough.

"But I'm also proud of Dan Haren. Some things didn't go his way, but he pitched a very good game, too."

After Ichiro Suzuki's dribbler down the third-base line gave Seattle its second hit of the game with one out in the bottom of the sixth, Adrian Beltre fisted a single to left to put runners at first and second, but Haren appeared to be on the verge of getting out of trouble when he snared a comebacker off the bat of Jose Vidro.

It had double play written all over it when Haren fired a perfect feed to shortstop Bobby Crosby, but the ball glanced off the tip of Crosby's glove and into shallow right field, loading the bases and sticking Crosby with his second error of the game.

"I just didn't catch the ball," Crosby said with a shake of his head. "Why I didn't catch it, I don't know. Whether I rushed it or blinked for a second, I don't know. I've made that play hundreds of times before. I just wish I could have made it for Danny."

Raul Ibanez followed with a sacrifice fly to right, after which Richie Sexson pummeled a hanging 1-1 curveball over the wall in dead center field for three insurance runs that Hernandez never needed.

"He was nasty," Haren said of his counterpart. "Sometimes you feel like the team that scores first is going to win the game, and it kind of felt like that today."

Haren, who left after the sixth having allowed four hits and a walk while striking out two in the first Opening Day start of his career, couldn't remember ever losing a game in which he'd not allowed an earned run. But he didn't want any part of hanging the loss on Crosby.

"It was just a weird inning," Haren said. "The first two hits weren't hit very hard, and then we get a double-play ball and couldn't turn it. ... But Bobby's gonna make that play 999 times out of 1,000; that's a once-in-a-lifetime play for him. I don't want Bobby to feel bad for me.

"He's going to win a lot of games for me."

Hernandez, a righty who struggled to live up to the frenzied "King Felix" hype surrounding him as a rookie last season, was nothing short of a royal pain for the A's.

The youngest Opening Day starter in Seattle history, Hernandez, 20, struck out a career-high 12 over eight innings, and the three hits he gave up -- Travis Buck doubled for his first big-league hit, and Shannon Stewart and Eric Chavez each singled -- were the only batted balls against him to reach the outfield.

"Obviously, it was a frustrating day for us offensively, but you have to give credit where credit's due," A's designated hitter Mike Piazza said. "He had us off-balance the whole day. ... He's a talented kid, no doubt about it."

"He's as good as advertised," gushed Buck. "He threw every one of his pitches for strikes, and every pitch was about as good as it gets. ... I faced him once in Spring Training and flew out to right, but I didn't see all of his pitches. Today he threw everything, and all of it was legit."

Added Geren: "It looked like he had a good game plan. He was challenging them early, then he went soft the second time [through the batting order], then the third time, he came in hard again on a lot of guys. He was great."

Haren was nearly as good. Unfortunately for the A's, his luck was anything but.

"He was throwing as well as Felix," Ibanez said. "[The sixth] was a big inning for us, especially the way [Haren] was throwing. The guy was pitch-for-pitch with Felix. Ichiro's swinging bunt, Beltre fought one off to the outfield, and ... we were able to capitalize on that mistake. And that was the game."

"Danny threw a great game," Crosby said. "It was tough on me, because I'm the one who screwed it up."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.