OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Jim Johnson spent the first week of the season making adjustments after a pair of surprising results in his new uniform.
The reigning AL saves leader struck out two and closed it out this time after losing back-to-back outings to begin with the year with Oakland, sealing the Athletics’ 6-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.
“I’ll take it. Any time I throw a zero and we win, I don’t care. As long as we win, it really doesn’t matter,” Johnson said. “I’ve been just trying to get better and not make the same mistakes I made earlier. Obviously everybody knows how things started, and I’m just trying to get back in a little bit of rhythm and stay there as long as I possibly can.”
Brandon Moss hit a three-run homer, Yoenis Cespedes connected in the eighth and Josh Donaldson beat out an infield single in the fifth to drive in the go-ahead run.
Sonny Gray (1-0) allowed one earned run and six hits, struck out three and walked two in six innings. In the ninth, manager Bob Melvin went back to Johnson, who delivered his first save despite allowing two baserunners.
Johnson, who converted 50 of 59 save opportunities in 2013, was acquired from Baltimore to replace departed All-Star Grant Balfour. Johnson pitched one inning during Saturday’s loss but was eager to get back to his ninth-inning role.
“It’s what he’s done and what he does,” Melvin said.
Moss tied the game at 3 on a three-run homer in the third. Donaldson’s third hit of the season snapped a career-worst 0-for-20 streak, and Jed Lowrie followed with a sacrifice fly.
Oakland won its first series at home against Seattle in four tries since sweeping the Mariners at the Coliseum to end the 2012 season.
“We had them on the ropes a little bit but they had us on the ropes, too,” said first-year Seattle skipper Lloyd McClendon, whose club opened with a 4-2 road trip. “They had good at-bats, made good pitches and kept grinding.”
Melvin lost a replay challenge in the fourth inning. Sam Fuld singled and started toward second and was caught off the bag. The crew confirmed its call in 2 minutes, 1 second.
Gray allowed a pair of unearned runs in the second after Michael Saunders reached on first baseman Daric Barton’s fielding error.
After throwing six shutout innings in a 2-0 loss to Cleveland on opening night Monday, Gray followed that up with another strong start. The two runs ended his scoreless innings streak at 14 dating to his final regular-season start of 2013.
Gray expects Johnson to finish plenty of games for the A’s.
“He’s one of the best closers in the league and everyone in this clubhouse believes that and knows that,” Gray said.
Erasmo Ramirez (1-1) struggled with his command after an impressive win in his season debut Tuesday at Los Angeles. He allowed seven hits and walked three in four innings.
Robinson Cano’s third-inning double gave him a 14-game hitting streak against the AL West.
Right-hander Dominic Leone made his major league debut in the seventh for Seattle after being promoted Friday. The 2012 16th-round draft pick bypassed Triple-A. He immediately gave up Eric Sogard’s double, the No. 9 batter’s third hit of the day to match a career high.
Notes: Seattle DH Corey Hart had the day off as he continues to be eased in after missing last year with Milwaukee following knee surgery. That gives him two days of rest before Seattle’s home opener Tuesday. … The A’s were set to fly after the game to Minnesota for Monday afternoon’s Twins home opener. … James Paxton starts for Seattle Tuesday against the Angels. … A’s reliever Ryan Cook, on the DL with shoulder tendinitis, could be activated as soon as Monday, while OF Craig Gentry (lower back strain) will make at least one more minor league appearance before returning. RHP A.J. Griffin (elbow) will stay in Oakland and continue rehab, beginning strengthening exercises this week. “It’s more the mental game, battling boredom,” said Griffin, a 14-game winner last year.
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