A's Duchscherer earns long-awaited win
Righty dominates Mariners for first victory since July '08
SEATTLE -- Justin Duchscherer heard about four different start times for Monday's game -- a special event of sorts celebrating the Mariners' opener at Safeco Field.
The A's starting pitcher wasn't too interested in knowing when legend Randy Johnson was going to throw out the first pitch, nor when Ichiro Suzuki was scheduled to receive the accolades he accumulated in 2009. Fireworks? Seen enough of 'em.
Duchscherer just needed to know when he was taking the mound, the place where he hasn't quite felt his All-Star self since 2008. He needed to allow his nerves plenty of time to settle, his mind plenty of time to focus.
Once he did step on the bump, around approximately 4:05 p.m. PT, he pretty much made everyone forget about Johnson and Suzuki. He mowed through a Seattle lineup that, just last week, pounded him for five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. And, just like that, less than three hours later, he found himself on the winning end of a 4-0 victory.
"I felt like the last time I pitched against these guys I didn't trust my fastball enough, and today I just felt like I needed to throw my fastball early so that I could establish my offspeed stuff later in the game," Duchscherer said. "It worked. I didn't make every pitch perfect, but for the most part I kept the ball down and hit my spots on the corner well. Once I got into the game, that's when I started working my offspeed stuff to keep them off balance. And the results were better than last time."
It marked Duchscherer's first win since July 8, 2008 -- a day that, coincidentally, had him up against the Mariners. The A's righty tossed a two-hit shutout while striking out four that day.
He fell short of a complete game Monday, but otherwise the results were freakishly similar -- no runs, two hits, four strikeouts.
It took almost two years, a couple injuries and a struggling bout with clinical depression for Duchscherer to again conquer that "W" he had come so used to acquiring in 2008, and he made it no secret Monday that he felt a sense of relief in the accomplishment.
"I think, more than anything, I'm proud of myself -- it's been a long time since I've gotten a win in a Major League baseball game," he said. "To get through the things I've been through and to get back out there, I'm just really proud of myself."
His manager and several teammates are just as proud.
"We had a conversation before the game about his last spring tuneup in San Francisco," said skipper Bob Geren, referring to Duchscherer's mastery over the Giants on April 1. "He had real good command, and it was a glimpse of what he did for us a couple years ago. I told him to repeat what he did then, and he went out and did just that. He was real efficient with his pitches. Great game for him."
It was one that, at first, had the makings of a pitchers' duel. Both Duchscherer and Seattle starter Ryan Rowland-Smith breezed through the first three frames without surrendering a hit. But the latter pitcher quickly lost control in the fourth, walking three en route to giving up a sacrifice fly for a 1-0 A's lead, which came without a hit.
"Baseball's a crazy game like that, but that's the kind of ballclub we are," A's second baseman Adam Rosales said. "We are going to push runs across any way we can."
Two innings later, Cliff Pennington made it a 2-0 game with his second homer of the season -- a shot to left field -- before the A's attacked again in the seventh frame on a two-run single by Gabe Gross. It was more than enough to spoil Seattle's home opener and hand Rowland-Smith the loss following seven innings of three-hit ball.
Meanwhile, Duchscherer escaped his only jam of the night -- a seventh-inning situation that had Mariners runners on second and third with one out -- before being pulled after 7 1/3 innings.
"I've had difficulty so far trying to incorporate myself back into the rhythm of being out there," Duchscherer said. "It still feels like six, seven, eight innings is hard. Even though the results are there, I still feel like I'm straining and I'm pretty physically and mentally tired right now."
No worries, though, as Jerry Blevins and Andrew Bailey quickly laid to rest the two-hit shutout against a Seattle team that has scored just 21 runs in its eight games, leaving the A's starter a rather happy man.
"We won," Duchscherer said with a smile. "I threw the ball well. The results were good."
"You have to tip your hat to them," Seattle's Chone Figgins said. "That's not a bad team over there. They are playing good ball right now."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.