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Kottaras hits a three-run homer off Felix

SEATTLE -- The A's had the tough task Friday of playing the next game following teammate Brandon McCarthy's scary head injury that left him hospitalized. But with his jersey hanging in the dugout and McCarthy wishing the team good luck prior to the game, the A's beat the Mariners, 6-1, at Safeco Field.

"It's an emotional thing, just thinking about it," catcher George Kottaras said. "It's just a really sad thing for him to have to deal with. It's also we have a job to do, as well, and we went out there, played hard."

Kottaras dealt the big blow, a tiebreaking three-run homer in the fourth inning, while rookie right-hander A.J. Griffin stymied the Mariners and overshadowed Seattle ace Felix Hernandez to earn a spot in franchise history. Griffin became the second Oakland starter to begin his career 5-0, joining Todd Burns, who accomplished the feat in 1988.

A high pitch count forced Griffin's exit after 5 1/3 innings, but he limited the damage done by six hits, stranding two runners in both the second and the fourth. In walking only one, Griffin increased the A's starters streak to 36 straight games with three or fewer walks, inching them closer to the club record of 41 consecutive contests.

"Seems like every time he pitches, we feel good about our chances and he gives us a great chance to win when he goes out there," manager Bob Melvin said. "For me, probably pitch-count wise, I don't want to say out of sync, but he looked frustrated at times with where he was throwing the ball. The stuff was still good, the performance and the results have been the same every time."

On a night in which they were facing an American League Cy Young Award candidate in Hernandez, the A's broke out of a recent slump to support Griffin. Despite entering the game with the third most runs in the AL since the All-Star break, the A's combined for just five runs while getting swept by the Angels over their previous three games.

But Oakland jumped out to a 1-0 lead thanks to a gaffe by Mariners right fielder Eric Thames in the first inning. With Seth Smith on first base and two outs, Yoenis Cespedes blooped a single into right. Smith never stopped running and easily crossed the plate after the ball harmlessly rolled by Thames.

After Brendan Ryan's two-out double knocked in the Mariners' only run in the second, the A's kept the runs coming in the fourth. Josh Donaldson and Stephen Drew got things going with a one-out walk and single, respectively. Kottaras then followed with a long home run into the right-field seats, giving Griffin a 4-1 cushion.

"Oh man, that was awesome," Griffin said. "I got pretty excited. I kind of jumped up and I was cheering pretty hard for him. That's awesome, man. He really got a hold of that ball. It's really fun to watch your guys go out there and do awesome things, like hit three-run home runs. Especially when you're pitching."

"I've often said that those type of homers feel like they put more runs on the board than they actually do," Melvin said. "To get to 4-1 lead against Felix feels like it's a 10-run homer. You still have to go out there and pitchers have to perform and you got to get outs, but you're sitting there with four runs off of Felix, and that feels like quite a few."

Oakland chased Hernandez in the fifth, putting up another couple of runs on an RBI double by Donaldson and run-scoring single by Drew.

Hernandez didn't get past the fifth for just the second time this season, lasting 4 2/3 innings, while allowing 11 hits and six runs.

"It was just one of those games," Hernandez said. "Every pitch was up. I fell behind a lot of times and they just made me pay. It was not my day today."

The win, coupled with an Orioles loss, gives the A's a half-game advantage in the first Wild Card spot as they continue a rough stretch that includes 16 of the next 19 contests come away from home.

"We were bogged down for a few games there," Melvin said, "and to come out, and knowing after three losses in a row that you have to face Felix, to come out and put some pressure on him, score some runs, certainly puts the last three games behind you."

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