Oakland manager Ken Macha will be looking to balance his team’s need to stay sharp against his players’ need to get some rest as the Athletics open a season-ending three-game series with the Mariners at Safeco Field.
“When we get to Seattle, we need to make sure our regular guys are tuned in for the postseason,” Macha said.
The first-year manager said he’ll continue to mix and match rest for his regulars on Friday and Saturday.
“Sunday, I want to get the regular lineup out there and play the whole game,” Macha said. “We’re going to have two days in between then and the first playoff game.”
Oakland has won four straight, including the division clincher against Texas on Tuesday. It is the Athletics’ second straight AL West title, and third in four years.
While the Athletics prepare for the postseason, the Mariners will be playing for the first time since they were eliminated from the wild-card race. Seattle was idle Thursday, but was eliminated when Boston beat Baltimore 14-3 to claim the final AL playoff berth.
“We didn’t play well coming down the stretch, and we didn’t play well in the second half at all,” Seattle’s John Olerud said Wednesday after the Mariners were shut out 4-0 by Anaheim’s John Lackey. “We’ve lost a lot of close games and haven’t beaten a lot of teams that we felt like we should have beaten.”
Seattle led the AL West by eight games on June 13, and was still in the thick of the wild-card race after Oakland moved in front in the division. However, the Mariners have gone 11-11 in September.
“Boston definitely played good when they needed to, and we didn’t. That’s the difference,” Seattle’s Bret Boone said. “But I don’t think we handed it to them by any means.”
STANDINGS: Athletics - 1st place, AL West. Mariners - 2nd place, 6 GB, AL West.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Justin Duchscherer (1-1, 3.77 ERA). The rookie right-hander is making his sixth career start, and fourth of the season. He will be looking to bounce back after losing to Joel Pineiro and the Mariners last Saturday, when he gave up three runs and six hits in four innings of a 9-3 loss.
MARINERS PROBABLE STARTER: Pineiro (15-11, 3.85 ERA). The 25-year-old right-hander set a career high for wins in the victory over the Athletics last Saturday, as he allowed just two runs and four hits in seven innings. Pineiro is 5-1 with a 2.58 ERA in 10 career games, including seven starts, against Oakland. He is 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA in four starts against the A’s this season.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Athletics - Eric Chavez, .282 avg. and 28 HRs; Miguel Tejada, 105 RBIs and 96 runs; Tejada and Eric Byrnes, 10 SBs. Mariners - Ichiro Suzuki, .310 avg., 110 runs and 33 SBs; Bret Boone, 34 HRs and 114 RBIs.
SEASON SERIES: Mariners, 9-7.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Athletics - Oakland will host Boston on Wednesday in the opener of the teams’ AL division series. Tim Hudson will start for the A’s, most likely against Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez. … SS Tejada has had the most success of any Oakland hitter against RHP Pineiro, going 6-for-18 (.333). Mariners - DH Edgar Martinez might be playing in the final series of his career this weekend. Although Martinez hasn’t disclosed whether he intends to retire or return for another season, almost 30 friends and relatives from Puerto Rico are coming to Safeco Field this weekend. … The Mariners were shut out Wednesday for the 10th time this season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Athletics - 39-39 on the road; Mariners - 47-31 at home.
INJURIES: Athletics - LHP Mark Mulder (leg), 15-day DL; LHP Micah Bowie (elbow), 60-day DL. Mariners - INF Greg Colbrunn (wrist), 15-day DL; RHP Rett Johnson (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Matt Thornton (elbow), 60-day DL.