SEATTLE -- The version of Rich Hill that showed up in Seattle mirrored the pitcher the A's believed they signed to a $6 million, one-year deal this winter, just not the one they had seen in the days leading up to Saturday night.
Hill's discouraging spring had been well-documented, and the command issues that plagued him during that time were on display again when the regular season opened, leading to a forgettable 2 2/3-inning outing against the White Sox on Monday.
This time, Hill rounded into form, showcasing an aggressive fastball he commanded with ease to complement excellent secondary pitches for a 10-strikeout performance against the Mariners that netted him his first win in green and gold, a 6-1 decision.
"I think it's fair to say a lot of things came together tonight," Hill said.
"We got into a pretty good rhythm," catcher Stephen Vogt said. "We talked before about being more aggressive with the fastball. He did such a great job throwing some heaters in the zone, getting some swings with some weak contact on his fastball, and that really helped him get his arm slot out in front with his release point for the breaking balls, because both were sharper tonight."
The 35-year-old veteran, making just his sixth start since 2010, gave the A's six innings, his lone mistake hit by Mariners catcher Chris Iannetta for a solo home run in the sixth. Seattle totaled four other hits off Hill, who also walked one and hit two batters, but the lefty stranded five base runners -- including two in his final frame by striking out the side.
Ryan Dull fanned two in a perfect seventh frame, and Marc Rzepczynski picked up the final two innings to help the A's secure the series-clinching victory.
"He can strike some guys out, as we've seen, and when he's mixing his pitches and throwing his fastball over the plate, you see some funky swings," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Hill.
"We've known that he can do that, and it's just a matter of him going out and doing it, especially on a night when the bullpen was a little thin," Vogt said. "For him to go out there and pick us up like that, that shows where the veteran leadership comes in from him."
A's relievers entered the game responsible for 20 1/3 innings pitched already in this young season, most in the Majors, and Hill's ability to limit their usage on this night was just as significant as the confidence he gained from doing so.
"When he's on, he's unpredictable," Melvin said. "He can throw his breaking ball in any count, but he commanded the fastball today much better than we've seen. This was a big game for him and for us, with the rotation. We really needed someone to get deep in the game for us. I know confidence-wise, this was a big game for him."
"He was dropping different arm slots, throwing to different spots on the plate," Iannetta said. "He was throwing a backdoor to righties, he was throwing down and in, he dropped down to lefties. He was throwing a fastball out of that lower arm slot, too. He was definitely using everything he had."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.