The A’s and Mariners duke it out for a wild card berth in this weekend’s series in Seattle.
Oakland Athletics vs Seattle Mariners: Series Preview
Oakland Athletics Record: (81-65, 36-38 on the road, 2nd AL West)
Seattle Mariners Record: (79-66, 37-38 at home, 3rd AL West)
Season Series: Mariners leads 9-7
The A’s trail the division leading Angels by 10 games, and only lead the Wild Card race by 1 game. I felt strongly that the White Sox series would be the slump buster for the Athletics, but their struggles persisted. Since August 1st, the Athletics have gone 14-24 and have had a losing record in August and September. They haven’t had back-to-back wins since August 22-23 against the Angels. My optimism towards the Athletics has reached its breaking point. A third consecutive division title no longer feels like a possibility.
"Bob Melvin: “We’re fighting for our lives right now, that’s just the way it is. We’ve put ourselves in this position.” #Athletics– Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) September 11, 2014"
Instead of dwelling on what seems unlikely at best, and impossible at worst, let us focus on what is obtainable: a Wild Card spot. If the A’s have any hope of keeping their postseason dreams alive, their catastrophic decline must end this series. The A’s have 16 games remaining in the season, including the Mariners’ series. The Mariners enter the series with confidence, while the A’s cannot seem to correct their lingering problems. They hope to rebound to secure a Wild Card spot for themselves while also keeping the Mariners out of Wild Card contention.
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This series could have major implications on the postseason picture and could be one of the most critical of the entire season for the Athletics. By the end of this series, the Athletics could find themselves with no Wild Card spot whatsoever. There is also the potential that the A’s could increase their lead and protect their number 1 Wild Card seed standing.
The Mariners are clawing to earn a Wild Card spot as they are presently 1.5 games behind the Athletics for the number 1 seed, and only .5 games behind the Tigers for the second seed. Unlike the Athletics, the Mariners have been heating up, going 23-14 since August 1st.
Schedule and Pitching Match-Ups
Neither team appears to have an advantage this series, with the Mariners have a losing record at home (.493) and the A’s with a similar record on the road (.486). The Athletics and Mariners will both send one southpaw and two right-handed pitchers to the mound.
Last match up
The Athletics won 6-1 on September 1st, the first game of the series. Adam Dunn hit a 2-run home run off Chris Young in the 1st inning. Dunn, Soto, Sogard, and Donaldson all not only had an RBI, but they all had a 2-out RBI. The only run scored against Hammel was Brad Miller’s solo home run.
The Mariners beat out the Athletics the next day, 6-5. The Mariners edged out the A’s by 1 run with Seager’s 2 run home run, plus the 2 run RBIs from Jackson and Chavez. Sonny Gray allowed 6 earned runs and 7 hits over 5 innings. Pomeranz and Cook allowed no runs, and only 1 hit over 4.0 innings. Dunn, Moss and Fuld had an RBI, while Gentry had 2.
The final game of the series was a preview of the potential Wild Card pitching matchup. It resulted in another 1 run loss for the Athletics. Felix Hernandez narrowly out pitched Jon Lester, with the game ending 2-1. Both starters pitched 8 innings. Hernandez had 1 earned run, while Lester had 2 (Seager and Hart had solo home runs). Dunn, once again, hit an RBI, scoring the only run for the Athletics.
Friday September 12, 7:10 PM PST
Hammel got off to a disastrous start after being acquired by the Athletics. His ERA was 9.53 over his first 4 starts. We have witnessed an entirely new Hammel since his outing in Atlanta on August 15th. This new and improved “Hammel 2.0” has been incredible. In his 3 most recent starts, he has a dazzling 1.66 ERA,while recording 18 strike-outs over 21.2 innings. Unfortunately, mostly due to lack of run support, he has only produced 1 win, and two no decisions.
Paxton has been equally as impressive, despite spending some time on the Disabled List. The rookie has a 1.33 ERA over 20.1 innings, obtaining a 2-1 record in his last 3 starts. Even more impressive, he went 8-2 with a 1.75 ERA over his first 13 career starts, landing him the second-lowest ERA in Major League Baseball history for a pitcher in their first 13 career starts.
Hammel has only pitched 8 innings against the Mariners this season, but he was stellar in that start. He allowed only 1 earned run, 3 hits, 1 walk, with 5 strikeouts. His ERA from that game was 1.13, with a 0.50 WHIP. While Hammel was dominant against the Mariners, the next day Paxton faced the Athletics for the first time and took them down. In 7.2 innings, Paxton allowed only 4 hits and 2 runs. He had a 2.35 ERA and 0.91 WHIP.
Saturday, September 13, 6:10 PM PST
Gray has continued to struggle and his last start against the Mariners went poorly. Gray allowed 6 earned runs and 7 hits over 5.0 innings, including a 2-run home run. Gray may be showing signs of fatigue and has a 5.21 ERA over 19 innings in his last 3 appearances. He might not be capable of out pitching Hernandez, but he is certainly capable of out pitching the Seattle batters. Gray has a 2.81 season ERA against the Mariners, with a 1.25 WHIP over 25.2 innings. Hopefully Saturday night, we all witness Gray returning to former glory.
The problem for the A’s will be the ace on the other team. Not much needs to be said about the intimidating presence that is King Felix. He has been a thorn in the side of the Athletics and continues to pitch dominantly against the Athletics. He has a 2.15 ERA against Oakland, with a 0.98 WHIP throughout 37.2 innings. In their last meeting, he allowed only 1 earned run over 8.0 innings. Dunn was the only Athletic to generate an RBI off Hernandez in the form of a solo home run.
Sunday, September 14, 1:10 PM PST
Lester has pitched 22 innings over his last 3 starts, has a 2.45 ERA, but has a 1-2 record. Lester continues producing quality starts for the Athletics, while the rest of the team offer him virtually no run support. If you haven’t noticed, this has been a theme for the A’s during the past month. Barring a meltdown, Lester should dominate, but it’s up to the offense for the Athletics to finally hit runs. Luckily, that appears relatively easy given Young’s recent struggles. Young has a 7.71 ERA over his 3 most recent appearances, lasting only 9.1 total innings. He made it only 2/3rds of an inning against the Athletics on September 1st. His 36 pitches resulted in 5 earned runs. The Athletics need to duplicate that game and produce a win.
"Gentry’s headaches have subsided, but still not ready to play, Melvin says. #Athletics-Joe Stiglich (@JoeStiglichCSN) September 13, 2014"
Craig Gentry and John Jaso remain on the DL with rather severe concussions. Reports are indicating neither may return this season if they do not show encouraging signs of recovery. Kyle Blanks (Strained left calf) was transferred to the 60-day DL after an MRI revealed left Achilles tendonitis. He may return in September. Stephen Vogt took swings in the batting cage on 9/11 and could possibly return in mid-September.
"#Athletics reinstate Sean Doolittle from the disabled list.– Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) September 12, 2014"
The Mariners’ Dustin Ackley has recently missed games due to his left ankle. An MRI on Monday revealed bone spurs. It is questionable if he will play on Friday but may return to the lineup. Given the strength of Ackley’s hitting, the A’s will keep their fingers crossed that he does not return this series. Ackley has been one of the best hitters for the Seattle since the All-Star break.
This will be the second-to-last road series for the Athletics. Their regular season will conclude with a 4-game series in Texas against the Rangers. In the meantime, the A’s will host the Rangers, Phillies, and Angels in Oakland.
If you’re optimistic about the A’s having a chance at the postseason, here is an article about what October could look like for the Athletics.
If you’re pessimistic and think the A’s season has already ended, then I recommend you check out what 2015 will bring the Athletics. At least you can start planning your vacation, right?