The teams open a three-game set, which could see Oakland clinch the division crown or Seattle make a race of it.
This critical series kicks off with the first-place A’s holding a five-game lead over the Mariners, with each team having nine games remaining.
Six of those will come against each other, including the last three of the regular season.
The A’s can render that series meaningless in regard to the division race if they pull off a three-game sweep this weekend, which would give Oakland its third AL West title in four years.
“We would love to clinch it as soon as possible, but we’ve got a long way to go before that,” said first baseman Scott Hatteberg, whose A’s have won eight of nine. “We’ve got six big games left with these guys. We’ve given ourselves a nice cushion, but that can slip away quick.”
If Oakland does sweep, that would leave the Mariners to chase the Boston Red Sox, whom they trail by 2 1/2 games for the AL wild card.
The Mariners fell further behind Thursday when they lost 2-1 to the Texas Rangers in 10 innings. They lost three of four to the last-place Rangers.
“We were behind the 8-ball as it was, now we’re a little further behind,” said Mariners manager Bob Melvin. “We have to go in there and win. Tomorrow is the one we have to focus on now.”
Seattle can’t be thrilled about facing Tim Hudson in Friday’s opener.
The ace right-hander has dominated the Mariners this season, lasting eight innings in all three of his outings against them while going 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA.
Hudson’s counterpart on Sunday, however, enjoyed the finest outing of his career the last time he faced Oakland.
Ryan Franklin fired a two-hitter to notch his first major league complete game in a 6-0 victory on July 23. In his only other two big-league starts against the A’s—both of which came earlier this season—Franklin went 0-1 with a 5.25 ERA.
One of Franklin’s biggest concerns will be shutting down Miguel Tejada. The reigning AL MVP is batting .371 (13-for-35) with three homers and 12 RBIs in the last nine games.
STANDINGS: Mariners - 2nd place, 5 GB, AL West. Athletics - 1st place, AL West.
MARINERS PROBABLE STARTER: Franklin (9-13, 3.59 ERA). The right-hander has been victimized by poor run support lately. Seattle has scored just eight runs in his last four starts, and Franklin is 0-2 in that span despite giving up six runs in 30 1-3 innings (1.17 ERA). He’s lost six starts this year when allowing three runs or fewer, and is the only pitcher among the AL’s top 10 in ERA that does not have at least 13 victories.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Hudson (15-6, 2.66 ERA). Since winning seven straight decisions, Hudson has gone 1-2 with a 5.94 ERA this month while allowing 24 hits in 16 2-3 innings. Only one of those subpar outings came at home, where the right-hander is 8-2 with a 2.21 ERA this year. Hudson, however, won at Texas on Saturday, as he gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings of a 9-3 victory. He’s 9-4 with a 2.91 ERA in 18 career starts against Seattle.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Mariners - Ichiro Suzuki, .307 avg. 108 runs and 31 SBs; Boone, 33 HRs and 110 RBIs. Athletics - Chavez, .281 avg.; Chavez and Tejada, 27 HRs; Tejada, 101 RBIs, 95 runs and 10 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Mariners, 7-6.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Mariners - RF Suzuki is a career .167 hitter (7-for-42) against RHP Hudson. … RHP Franklin hasn’t allowed any home runs in his last three outings after surrendering 32 in his first 27 starts. … The Mariners have split the last six games against the A’s despite outscoring them 26-12. Athletics - RHP Keith Foulke, the AL saves leader with 43, is expected to be ready for this series after being unavailable Tuesday and Wednesday due to back spasms. … RHP Chad Bradford has yielded one earned run in 20 1-3 innings over his last 20 appearances. … OF Eric Byrnes is in a 1-for-18 slump. … 3B Eric Chavez has homered three times in 11 career at-bats against RHP Franklin.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Mariners - 40-35 on the road; Athletics - 53-22 at home.
INJURIES: Mariners - INF Greg Colbrunn (wrist), 15-day DL; RHP Rett Johnson (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Matt Thornton (elbow), 60-day DL. Athletics - LHP Mark Mulder (leg), 15-day DL; LHP Micah Bowie (elbow), 60-day DL.