"It's especially tough when you get a run in the top of the first inning against a guy like [Felix] Hernandez, who's hard to scratch a run off of. You don't want to put pressure back on your offense."
Hernandez (7-6), the Mariners emerging ace, was touched by Nick Swisher in the first. He yanked an 0-2 fastball for his third home run in two games. Swisher had entered the series with two home runs over his previous 50 at-bats, then hit three over a four-at-bat span.
Braden nursed the narrow lead through the first couple innings without difficulty. Then with two outs and no one on in the third, he came apart. The next five batters reached and three runs would score.
Ichiro walked. Jose Vidro singled then Jose Guillen reached on an a two-outerror by third baseman Marco Scutaro. Braden started Adrian Beltre 0-2, then he threw three straight balls. He finally came in with a full-count fastball that Beltre pulled down the third-base line into the left-field corner for a three-run double, with all three runs unearned.
"He had some good innings early then had trouble locating his fastball," A's manager Bob Geren said. "That was the big difference. He's a guy who has to locate his fastball to set up his offspeed [pitches].
"It seemed like we were one pitch away from getting out of the inning then they get a big inning."
It happened again in the fourth with two outs and a runner on second. Braden was one strike away, but couldn't shut it down. Ichiro slapped a 1-2 outside breaking ball into shallow left for an RBI. Vidro singled followed by Guillen's 13th home run on a 3-2 fastball. The two-run blast landed in the left-field upper deck, 431 feet away.
"That's the story for me, it's going to be the fastball location," Braden said. "I don't have the upper level velocity to miss in the zone. Some other guys do. When I come over the plate and it gets hit, it's never a good thing. That home run Guillen hit to Vancouver came back over the plate.
"In the Minor Leagues, sometimes you can afford to miss up in the zone and get a swing through or a weak contact in play," he added. "Here, more times than not, they're going to put it in play with some effectiveness.
Hernandez was not overpowering but, the A's couldn't generate much. Their best chance was in the sixth, when two hits and an error loaded the bases with one out. But Hernandez struck out Scutaro then got Donnie Murphy on a groundout to third. Beltre made a diving stop, bounced up and threw Murphy out by a half step.
Hernandez is now 3-0 this season against the A's with a 0.39 ERA. He has allowed just one run and 12 hits in 23 innings against Oakland. He has struck out 21 while walking six.
"Every time we've seen him this year, he's been dominating," Geren said. "I don't know what he looks like against the rest of the league, but against us, he's been close to unhitable.
"He was throwing hard all game, then when he needed to get out of a jam, he stepped it up. He has so many different ways to get you out. When you have that kind of velocity, it makes all your other pitches that much more difficult to hit."
Hernandez went seven innings, allowing one run on seven hits, striking on seven and walking two.
"He did a great job tonight," Mark Ellis said. "He's a max-effort guy. The gun may have been a little high, but you looking at 96 (mph) at least. That changeup is his equalizer. He throws four pitches. His curveball he used late in the game.
"Anytime you face a guy who can command three pitches effectively, you're going to have your work cut out for you."