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SEA@OAK: McCarthy shines in first outing of 2012

TOKYO -- No flash photography.

A's shortstop Cliff Pennington heard the request, and surely the 44,227 fans in attendance at the Tokyo Dome did, too. But it didn't matter, not with icon Ichiro Suzuki on the field. So the flashbulbs kept coming, images of the Mariners outfielder being captured by the millisecond.

Ichiro always in focus, the A's attempted to turn the attention their way. After all, they were the designated "home" team, despite playing on a different continent. But they collected just six hits as a team, compared to Ichiro's four, and Seattle's Dustin Ackley topped off his own memorable night with a go-ahead RBI base hit in the 11th inning to leave Oakland on the losing end of a 3-1 decision on Wednesday.

It marked the A's eighth consecutive Opening Day loss, a trend that proved a difficult one to halt even before the first pitch was thrown, with Mariners ace Felix Hernandez set to take the mound. The right-hander, making his fifth consecutive Opening Day start, naturally shut down Oakland, allowing just one run through eight innings. He now owns a career 2.47 ERA against the A's.

"I didn't think he was throwing as hard as he normally throws," Pennington said. "But he was still Felix, and was still pitching. It's always a battle when you're facing him."

But Oakland righty Brandon McCarthy proved just as effective, also surrendering just one run, his time on the hill lasting seven innings. The A's hurler worked effortlessly, allowing six hits with no walks and three strikeouts, utilizing just 82 pitches, 58 of which were thrown for strikes.

And one he'd like to have back.

McCarthy, having cruised through the first three innings, greeted Ackley with a fastball down the middle that, well, wasn't supposed to be a fastball down the middle.

"It was a really bad fastball," McCarthy said. "It was supposed to be a cutter up and in, and it turned out to be a cutter in the middle, and I asked him to hit it out."

The A's, though, responded in quick fashion in the bottom half of the inning, when Pennington reached on a double and came around to score on an RBI double off the bat of Kurt Suzuki.

They appeared primed for even more in the next frame, when Yoenis Cespedes, making his Major League debut, collected his first big league hit by leading off with a hard-hit double to center field. But the A's stranded him on second and witnessed a similar scene in the sixth by not capitalizing on a one-out opportunity with men on first and third.

"We had some opportunities situationally," manager Bob Melvin said. "We really didn't do as well as we liked. In games like that, you're always searching for silver linings, and we did hit some balls hard, but in the end, they had a couple more big hits than we did obviously."

The biggest came in the 11th with A's reliever Andrew Carignan on the mound. Looking to continue his bullpen mates' streak of nine consecutive batters retired, the right-hander instead gave up a leadoff double to Brendan Ryan. The Mariners shortstop advanced to third on Chone Figgins' sacrifice bunt and scored on Ackley's RBI single.

Ichiro, once again cause to bring out the cameras, followed with his own run-scoring single to extend the lead.

"Today we missed a few, and then they didn't later," Pennington said.

The A's can't have too many repeat performances of Wednesday's if they want to maintain a respectable standing in the division. Whereas counterparts Texas and Los Angeles ooze power, Oakland must rely on other facets of its game -- situational hitting among them.

"Certainly we weren't as good with it today, but we were dealing with a tough customer, too," Melvin said. "Felix wasn't throwing as hard as he normally does, but when he needed to make a pitch, he did. And that's what good pitchers like him do when they need to. He gets guys on base and then makes some of his best pitches of the night.

"You knew, between Brandon and Felix, it probably comes down to one or two big hits. If we had scored a run a little earlier, we would have been a little happier tonight."

Still, the A's were in awe of the atmosphere that surrounded them, one that meant a lot to everyone on the field, but just a little more to one particular player.

"More than the four hits, it was more being able to enjoy the atmosphere with the fans," Ichiro said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. "Being there with the same feelings, that was special to me. That's what will stay in my heart."

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