Mariners 4, Athletics 0

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OAKLAND, Calif. – Felix Hernandez held Oakland scoreless for a second straight start and Adrian Beltre homered for the third time in two games, leading the Seattle Mariners to a 4-0 victory over the Athletics on Saturday.

Coming off a 5-for-5, two homer night Friday, Beltre helped Seattle make short work of Rich Harden in his return to the Oakland rotation by hitting a three-run homer in the second inning. Harden (1-2) couldn’t make it out of the third, leaving with a 4-0 deficit after intentionally walking Beltre.

That was more than enough for Hernandez (5-4), who was just as stingy as he was in his last start against the A’s, when he struck out 12 in eight scoreless innings of a 4-0 victory on opening day. He just wasn’t nearly as overpowering, not recording a strikeout until fanning Jack Cust with runners on first and second to end the sixth inning.

He didn’t give up a hit until Mark Ellis’ single to right-center with two outs in the fifth and didn’t allow a runner to reach third base. He allowed two hits, two walks and struck out two, extending his scoreless streak to 16 innings against the A’s.

George Sherrill pitched a perfect ninth to complete the shutout.

Beltre’s 13th homer helped the Mariners improve to 3-3 under new manager John McLaren, who took over after Mike Hargrove’s sudden resignation last weekend. Oakland finally found a way to tame Beltre when Lenny DiNardo struck him out with the bases loaded in the fifth, ending his streak of reaching base safely seven straight times.

The A’s fell to 2-4 on the homestand with their seventh shutout loss of the season, tied with Minnesota and Chicago for the most in the AL.

Harden, the immensely talented but injury-prone pitcher, had not started a game since April 15 against the Yankees. He went on the disabled list the following day with a shoulder injury and was out until June 21. With the A’s desperate to get the hard-thrower back, they let him build his arm strength up as a reliever in the majors instead of a lengthy rehab assignment in the minors.

He threw four hitless innings in three relief outings before making his return to the rotation against the Mariners. Working on a strict pitch limit, Harden ran into control problems in the second inning, throwing nine balls in his first 10 pitches and walking Jose Guillen and Richie Sexson to open the frame.

After throwing a strike to Beltre, Harden threw another that was too good and was hit over the left-field wall for Beltre’s second hit in 13 career at-bats against Harden. Harden allowed another run in the third on an RBI groundout by Guillen and left with two outs and two runners on. He allowed four runs and five hits in 2 2-3 innings, throwing 66 pitches.

DiNardo, who had been in the rotation before Harden’s return, pitched 6 1-3 scoreless innings of relief. DiNardo is competing with Joe Kennedy for the fifth starter’s spot when the A’s return from the All-Star break.

Notes: The Mariners have won four of five games in Oakland this season after failing to win once in nine tries last year. … Right-handed hitters were 2-for-35 this season against Harden before Beltre’s home run. The homer is also the only hit Harden has allowed in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position. … Shannon Stewart had one of Oakland’s two hits, extending his hitting streak to 13 games.

AP-ES-07-07-07 1831EDT

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