For a pitcher the caliber of Felix Hernandez, the former Cy Young Award winner who tossed a perfect game just three weeks ago, it can be a shock when he's imperfect.
Hernandez (13-7) threw 96 pitches in just 4 2-3 innings, his shortest outing since May 16, a 6-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Friday night. He gave up five earned runs, 11 hits — matching his season high — walked one and struck out four.
It was the second straight loss for the 2010 Cy Young winner. He had been 9-1 with a 1.62 ERA in his previous 15 starts since June 17, with five shutouts, including the perfect game on Aug. 15.
"I was fine in the bullpen. It was one of those games," Hernandez said. "It's more frustrating when you have nothing going on. That's what happened tonight."
A.J. Griffin allowed just one run and six hits in 5 1-3 innings, walking one and striking out seven. George Kottaras hit a three-run homer and Cliff Pennington had a season-high four hits as the A's subdued the Mariners' ace.
"You know as a starting pitcher and you have Felix on the other side, you better be pretty good," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "That puts a little added pressure on the opposing pitcher. I know he'll probably say it doesn't but everyone knows who Felix is, especially the way he's been pitching the last couple months."
Griffin (5-0), in his 10th start in his rookie season, has also pitched well the past couple months. He has yet to lose and now has a 3-0 record, a 1.54 ERA, and a .218 opponent batting average in four road starts.
"You just have to worry about your job. You have no control over what (Hernandez) does out there," Griffin said. "I just try to pitch the best game I can, do the best I can, keep us in the game and we did that."
Josh Donaldson drew a one-out walk in the fourth inning and was followed by a Stephen Drew single to set up Kottaras' three-run shot, on a 1-1 pitch from Hernandez. It was Kottaras' fourth home run.
"It was down a little bit, like middle in, and he got that one pretty good," Hernandez said.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said "it was one of those days where Felix has been so good for so long, he was just a little off today."
Hernandez said "every pitch was up. I fell behind a couple of times, well, not a couple, a lot of times and they just made me pay. All my pitches. It was not my day today."
Catcher John Jaso said Hernandez, "was still better than average but the A's are a hot team. Once they got a little momentum going, it was tough to battle them."
The A's came into the game with thoughts of a teammate, pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who remained behind in a Bay Area hospital after taking a line drive to the head in Wednesday's game. He suffered an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture and had two hours of surgery to relieve pressure. He is in stable condition.
"That's some scary stuff. You never want to see anyone get hit with a line drive like that or have anything bad to happen to anyone," Griffin said. "He's in all of our thoughts now and just hope he's OK."
Kottaras added, "It's an emotional thing just thinking about it. It's an emotional thing for his family. But we also have a job to do and we went out there and played hard."
The victory ended the A's three-game losing streak and moved them a game closer to Texas in the AL West. They trail by 4 1-2 games. The A's, Yankees and Orioles are all within a half-game of each other on top of the wild card standings.
The A's touched Hernandez for two runs in the fifth. Donaldson had an RBI double into the left-field corner, as Brandon Moss scored from first. Drew followed with a run-scoring single to right, ending Hernandez's night.
The A's pushed across an unearned run in the first. Seth Smith reached on a one-out single. With two outs, Yoenis Cespedes blooped a single to right but Thames overran the ball and Smith was waved home on the error.
The Mariners got that run back in the second. Michael Saunders led off with a single to center. With two outs, Luis Jimenez walked and Saunders scored on Brandon Ryan's single to right.
Notes: The A's will start Dan Straily on Tuesday to fill the spot in the rotation for injured Brandon McCarthy, who was hit by a line drive Wednesday. Straily, who was with the big club earlier this season, was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento. "I think he has been through all the 'firsts.' He knows what it's all about up here," Melvin said. "We're not afraid to throw young pitchers out there. We have a lot of young starters in the rotation right now. We'll just add him to that mix." ... The Mariners started CF Franklin Gutierrez and LF Saunders, a rare game in which both played. Each was coming off an injury while Gutierrez has been out most of the season with various injuries. "We've essentially got two center fielders out there, which is nice," Wedge said. ... Jimenez, the Mariners' 30-year-old rookie callup, got his major league hit, a single in the fourth.