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SEA@OAK: Hernandez fans eight, holds A's to one run

SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez will get the chance to build on his strong start to the 2014 season in front of a special "Supreme Court" crowd in his home debut Friday night against the Athletics.

As part of the promotion, the first 25,000 fans at Safeco Field will receive yellow commemorative T-shirts and "K" cards. It will mark the third time the club has expanded the "King's Court" from a section of a few hundred seats down the left-field line to include most of the stadium. 

During every home start for Hernandez, fans in the "King's Court" chant "K" repeatedly in unison and hold up their signs when the Mariners ace gets two strikes on a batter. With the "Supreme Court," the whole stadium is invited to join in the unique tradition.

On Aug. 21, 2012, the Mariners introduced the expanded section to celebrate Hernandez's perfect game in his previous start. Due to the event's success, the club has featured a "Supreme Court" crowd for Hernandez's home debut each ensuing season.

"That was unreal," Hernandez said of his initial reaction to the super-sized cheering section. "It was super sick. It was awesome."

Hernandez was all of those adjectives last week in a 3-1 win over the A's in Oakland. The right-hander scattered six hits and one run in 8 1/3 innings while striking out eight and walking just one.

Though he didn't record his first complete game of the season, Hernandez improved to 2-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.88. In two starts, Hernandez has thrown 14 1/3 innings while yielding just three earned runs, striking out 19 and walking two. 

"I'm going to attack the hitters the same way I did last time," Hernandez said. "If I have to make an adjustment, I'm going to make an adjustment."

On Friday, he'll oppose A's left-hander Tommy Milone, who'll be making his season debut after he missed his scheduled start last week when the soggy playing field at Coliseum caused the game to be postponed.

Oakland's starters have allowed three runs or fewer in each of the first nine games, for a 1.93 ERA.

"They've done a great job ... so far so good," third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "That's what we expect from them, to go out there and give us a chance to win every game, and so far, they have."

Athletics: Top prospect sidelined by hamstring injury

Shortstop Addison Russell, the top prospect in the A's farm system, was diagnosed with a Grade 3 right hamstring strain on Wednesday that is expected to sideline the 2012 first-round Draft pick for at least a month.

Russell had a minor hamstring injury, also on his right leg, during Spring Training, but this injury is believed to be in a different part of the hamstring. The shortstop came out of his Double-A game with the Midland RockHounds on Friday and hadn't played since. He was placed on the disabled list, retroactive to Saturday.

Russell, the 11th overall selection in the 2012 Draft, homered in Friday's game, the second contest of the season. He had five hits in his first seven at-bats before the injury, coming out of the game with what he thought was a cramp.

Mariners: Smoak off to hot start

Though the sample size is small, first baseman Justin Smoak looked like a rejuvenated hitter entering Wednesday's finale against the Angels. In his first seven games, he batted .321 (9-for-28) with two home runs, five extra-base hits and a 1.030 OPS. The switch-hitter also leads the club with nine RBIs and ranked first in the American League with eight two-out RBIs.

As a right-handed batter, Smoak is hitting .417 (5-for-12) with two doubles and four RBIs after posting a .192/.274/.274 line from the right side last season.

"I'm just trying to get to a spot where I'm relaxed in the box. I've stood up a little more and I'm trying to stay middle of the field, the other way," he said Wednesday. "If they come in, react. That's kind of been the key for me. The last few years I've been pull-happy when I hit right-handed, and we all know how that worked out."

Worth noting

• With a 5-3 win Tuesday night against the Angels, the Mariners improved to 23-15 (.605 winning percentage) all-time in home openers.

• Rookie southpaw James Paxton entered rare company, before being placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with a strained lat muscle behind his left shoulder. On Tuesday against the Angels, Paxton improved his career record to 5-0 (in six starts) with five innings of four-hit, three-run ball. He lowered his ERA to 1.75, overtaking Hernandez for the lowest mark through six starts in franchise history. Comments