Seattle (89-66) at Oakland (92-63)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Oakland, CA
Temp: 68° F
  • Game info: 4:05 pm EDT Sun Sep 21, 2003
Preview | Box Score | Recap

If the Seattle Mariners are to win the AL West, they could afford nothing less than a sweep of the first-place Oakland Athletics this weekend.

They may just pull it off.

The Mariners will try to cut their deficit in the West and inch closer to the Boston Red Sox in the wild-card race when they conclude their series at Network Associates Coliseum.

Seattle made it two straight wins over Oakland with Saturday’s 9-3 victory. The Mariners moved within three games of the Athletics in the division, and within 1 1/2 games of the Red Sox, who lost 13-4 in Cleveland.

Ichiro Suzuki had four hits and drove in a career-high five runs, and Bret Boone added three hits and two RBIs for Seattle.

“This is a great opportunity for us to jump up, stand up and be heard,” Seattle’s Mike Cameron said.

Suzuki, who came into this series with just 21 hits in his last 124 at-bats (.169), is 6-for-11 over the first two games, and has reached 200 hits for the third straight season.

“I cannot express how sincerely happy I am about what I accomplished today,” Suzuki said.

The Athletics’ magic number for clinching the division remains at five. Oakland, which will close the season at Seattle next weekend, sends rookie Rich Harden to the mound in one of the most important starts of his young career.

Gil Meche, a 15-game winner, will start for Seattle.

“Tomorrow is a game of pretty good consequence,” A’s manager Ken Macha said. “The importance level of that game is high.”

Harden, making his 13th big-league start, said he hopes to treat Sunday’s pressure-cooker like any other outing.

“Even if it’s a big game,” Harden said, “it’s just another game.”

First baseman Scott Hatteberg said there is no reason for the A’s to panic.

“We’re still three games in the driver’s seat,” Hatteberg said. “You don’t want to do that, but we’ve been afforded the luxury to (stink) for two days. We can’t keep this up.

“If we win tomorrow, it’ll be all right,” he said.

STANDINGS: Mariners - 2nd place, 3 GB, AL West. Athletics - 1st place, AL West.

MARINERS PROBABLE STARTER: Meche (15-10, 4.34 ERA). The 25-year-old right-hander gave up eight runs and seven hits over 2 1-3 innings—the second-shortest outing of his career—in a 10-5 loss to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. He is 0-2 with a 3.60 ERA in four career starts against Oakland.

ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Harden (5-4, 4.64 ERA). The rookie right-hander allowed three runs—two earned—and five hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 6-5 loss to the Anaheim Angels on Tuesday. This will be his first start against Seattle.

OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Mariners - Suzuki, .310 avg., 110 runs and 32 SBs; Boone, 33 HRs and 113 RBIs. Athletics - Eric Chavez, .279 avg.; Chavez and Miguel Tejada, 27 HRs; Tejada, 102 RBIs and 95 runs, Eric Byrnes and Tejada, 10 SBs.

SEASON SERIES: Mariners, 9-6.

STREAKS AND NOTES: Mariners - Seattle is 5-4 in Oakland. … Seattle has a winning road record (42-35) for the fourth consecutive season and sixth time since 1996. … OF Byrne’s catch against the wall in the eighth inning kept OF Suzuki’s hit total at four. Athletics - C Ramon Hernandez left the game Saturday in the eighth inning due to a bruised right elbow he may have sustained in the home plate collision with Mariners C Ben Davis. … LF-3B Mike Edwards made his major league debut when he pinch-hit in the eighth. … LHP Mark Mulder had a 10-minute throwing session before Saturday’s game at the Network Associates Coliseum. He said that he was “pain-free” but not 100 percent and is not planning to pitch this season.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Mariners - 42-35 on the road; Athletics - 53-24 at home.

INJURIES: Mariners - 1B-DH Greg Colbrunn (wrist), 15-day DL; RHP Rett Johnson (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Matt Thornton (elbow), 60-day DL. Athletics - LHP Mulder (leg), 15-day DL; LHP Micah Bowie (elbow), 60-day DL.

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Starting Pitchers

G. Meche KC vs. T. Lilly LAD
15-13 Record 12-10
4.59 ERA 4.34
130 K 147
63 BB 58
1.34 WHIP 1.33