SEATTLE -- Facing the hard-throwing Felix Hernandez on a chilly night is no hitter's idea of a good time.

In that context, the A's meager output Thursday night against the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner wasn't so surprising.

But the A's are out of mulligans after a 1-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Regardless of weather or other variables, they must find a way to take care of business against teams such as the Mariners (7-13), who sport the worst record in the American League.

The A's wasted a four-hitter from Brandon McCarthy (1-1) and managed just five hits off Hernandez and two relievers. A's manager Bob Geren is fond of putting a cheery spin on close losses, but the disappointment was obvious in his voice.

"It's frustrating to get that kind of performance and not win a game," Geren said quietly.

After this four-game series with Seattle, the A's head to Anaheim for a three-game series against the AL West-leading Angels.

They'd do well to fatten up on the Mariners, who are batting a league-worst .224 as a team.

The A's lead the majors with a 2.52 ERA but rank second-to-last in the AL with 66 runs, an average of 3.47 per game.

The first-pitch temperature was 51 degrees, and the A's bats never thawed out against Hernandez (2-2), who allowed four hits over 72/3 innings with eight strikeouts and three walks.

"He's tough whether it's cold, warm, whatever," outfielder Ryan Sweeney said. "His change-up is like 90 (mph). It looks like a fastball and sinks at the last second."


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With the A's sputtering offensively, their pitchers can't afford many mistakes.

McCarthy's came in the fourth inning, when he piped a 3-1 sinker that former A's player Adam Kennedy hit for a towering homer to right field.

"I had to come into his wheelhouse," McCarthy said. "Going against Felix, at-bats like that, you've got to do your best to avoid them."

The A's didn't advance a runner as far as third base.

Conor Jackson, who was supposed to play left field but was switched to first base when Daric Barton fell ill before the game, epitomized his team's frustrations.

He watched strike three in each of his first two at-bats. He came up in the eighth with two runners on and two outs, just as Hernandez was lifted for reliever Jamey Wright.

Jackson swung at the first pitch and hit into an inning-ending fielder's choice.

"It couldn't be a better situation for me," Jackson said. "I got a pitch to hit and didn't do anything with it."

Josh Willingham reached in the ninth on a leadoff single against Brandon League. He advanced to second on Sweeney's ground out, but Kurt Suzuki and Mark Ellis popped out to end it.

"Guys are battling, I know they are," Geren said. "But we've got to find a different gear. We're better than we're hitting. Performance is all that matters."

Oakland could have used all the thump it could muster against Hernandez. But regular designated hitter Hideki Matsui was out of the lineup. Geren called it a regular day off for Matsui and said Matsui was healthy.

Willingham served as DH, with Sweeney being inserted in left when Barton was scratched.

FRIday's game
A's (Tyson Ross 1-1) at Seattle (Michael Pineda 2-1), 7:10 p.m., CSNCA