The Oakland Athletics missed two chances over the weekend to clinch their first outright AL West title in three years.
They can still clinch at least a tie for the crown Monday night as they try to defeat the Seattle Mariners for the 16th straight time in the opener of a three-game series at Safeco Field.
Oakland (90-65) dropped the final two games of its weekend series against the Los Angeles Angels as its magic number for the AL West title remained at two.
The Athletics can still clinch the division Monday with a victory and a loss by the Angels to Texas.
“We still have it right in front of us,” A’s manager Ken Macha said.
Oakland lost its first meeting of the season with Seattle (75-81) on April 6 before winning the next 15. It’s the longest winning streak by one team against a divisional opponent since the 1974 Atlanta Braves beat the San Diego Padres 15 times in a row.
“That makes it tougher,” said Oakland designated hitter Frank Thomas, who is 0-for-16 over his last four games. “We’ve got a whole week to win a couple of ballgames. I like our chances.”
Thomas went 0-for-4 in Sunday’s 7-1 loss as the A’s managed only two hits. They also had only four hits in a 6-2 defeat on Saturday.
“I think a lot of the questions being asked about where do you want to clinch and the celebration is getting in some people’s heads,” right fielder Milton Bradley said. “Guys take it for granted we’re just going to get it done.”
Oakland’s pitching has been a major reason for its success against Seattle. A’s starters are 14-1 with a 2.16 ERA against the Mariners this season.
Jay Payton has been the offensive catalyst for the A’s in the season series, batting .421 (24-for-57) with 15 runs scored versus Seattle.
Esteban Loaiza (11-8, 4.70 ERA) is the only Oakland pitcher to lose to the Mariners this year, giving up five runs over 4 2-3 innings in a 6-2 loss on April 6. He won his other start against them on June 15, despite allowing five runs and six hits over six innings in a 9-6 win.
Loaiza is 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA over his last six starts. He won his second straight decision Wednesday, when he allowed three runs over 7 2-3 innings in a 4-3 victory over Cleveland.
“Since the beginning of the season my teammates always end up scoring runs after the fifth inning,” Loaiza said. “I go out and try to throw strikes and put zeros up and you never know what will happen.”
Seattle lost its second straight game on Sunday, 12-7 to the Chicago White Sox. The Mariners went 6-5 on their final road trip of the season.
“It’s been a long road trip at the end of a grueling season,” Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said.
Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki batted .365 (19-for-52) and scored 13 runs on the trip. However, Suzuki is just 4-for-31 with two runs scored in seven home games against the A’s this season.
The 21-year-old left-hander was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on Sept. 8 and has made three appearances in relief with the Mariners, allowing three homers over 3 1-3 innings.