The Oakland Athletics took three of four games at Seattle in early April. Winning another series against the Mariners might be tougher for the A’s with three of their best hitters struggling with injuries.
After ending a four-game losing streak, Oakland (18-19) tries to win two in a row for the first time in two weeks when they face the Mariners (17-22), who are looking for their third consecutive victory.
Third baseman Eric Chavez has only played once over Oakland’s last six games due to a bacterial infection, while designated hitter Frank Thomas (strained right quadriceps) has missed three in a row. The A’s are also without outfielder Milton Bradley, who’s been on the disabled list since April 27 with a right knee sprain and strained right oblique muscle.
Chavez returned to the lineup Saturday, but didn’t play Sunday after going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in a 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees. Thomas is listed as day-to-day, but Oakland definitely won’t have Bradley available Tuesday, as he’s out indefinitely.
The trio has accounted for 20 homers and 52 RBIs. Chavez is batting .287 while Thomas is hitting .305.
“It’s hard to really replace those guys,” A’s outfielder Jay Payton said. “But we’ve got some depth this year … we can put some guys out there and still get the job done.”
The A’s, though, managed only 14 runs during their four consecutive losses, and half of them came in a 9-7 loss at Toronto on Wednesday. Oakland hasn’t won two straight since a three-game run from April 30-May 2.
Oakland relied on pitching to end its slide Sunday, as Dan Haren threw a six-hitter to beat the Yankees 6-1.
The A’s will look for another strong pitching performance Tuesday as they send Joe Blanton (3-4, 6.38 ERA) to the mound. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA in five starts against the Mariners, although he’ll be looking to avoid losing his third straight start. Blanton gave up seven earned runs in six innings of the 9-7 defeat to the Blue Jays.
While the A’s have struggled recently, the Mariners are coming on, defeating the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Sunday behind two-run homers from Raul Ibanez, Jose Lopez and Yuniesky Betancourt, and a solo shot from Carl Everett.
The power display came barely 12 hours after Richie Sexson’s homer in the 13th inning Saturday night gave Seattle a 5-4 victory over Los Angeles. The Mariners are 13-6 this season when they homer.
“We’re swinging at better pitches,” manager Mike Hargrove said. “The ball carried well (against the Angels) all three games. It’s nice to see our hitters get rewarded.”
Seattle scored 21 runs and hit nine homers in the series.
Felix Hernandez (2-4, 4.58 ERA) hopes to be the latest starting pitcher to benefit from the Mariners’ red-hot lineup when he tries to win his second straight start. The right-hander is coming off a strong outing, allowing one run in 7 2-3 innings with eight strikeouts in an 8-1 victory over Tampa Bay last Tuesday.
Hernandez, 20, made his season debut against Oakland and gave up only two hits and one run, but lost 5-0 on April 7. He is 1-1 with a 1.89 ERA in three career starts against the A’s.