Although the Oakland Athletics have once again lost a key player, they still feel like they can contend this season.
The Athletics continue their pursuit of first place in the AL West on Wednesday when they try for a third straight victory over the Seattle Mariners.
Oakland (49-41) entered this seven-game homestand trailing the first-place Los Angeles Angels by six games. After hosting Seattle (35-55) for four games, the Angels come to town for a key three-game set.
But the Athletics chose to deal Rich Harden - who had the second-lowest ERA of any Oakland starter - in a six-player deal with the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday. Harden was scheduled to start the opener of the Angels’ series, but that assignment will instead go to newcomer Sean Gallagher.
“I’m excited about it,” Athletics manager Bob Geren said of the trade. “We’ve made some great deals the last 12 months and this is another one. (Gallagher is) young and talented and we got a lot of other talent in the deal also. I think it’s going to be another one of these trades where both teams are going to be real happy with it.”
Second baseman Mark Ellis - who has been with the A’s from 2002 - is also thinking positive.
“We’re still trying to make the playoffs,” Ellis told the team’s official Web site. “We had a good team before this, and I still think we have a good team.”
Oakland sliced its deficit in the division to five games with a 2-0 win on Tuesday behind All-Star Justin Duchscherer, who pitched a two-hitter and lowered his major league-leading ERA to 1.78.
While everything has been going well for Duchscherer, it’s been a different story for teammate Joe Blanton (5-11, 4.76), who will try to avoid becoming the first 12-game loser in the AL on Wednesday.
Blanton is one loss shy of his career high, but has won two of his last three outings. He was outstanding Friday in beating the Chicago White Sox, allowing one run in seven innings in a 7-1 win.
“Now I just have to put a couple in a row together and keep things rolling,” Blanton said.
The right-hander is 5-0 against the Mariners at Safeco Field, but hasn’t been as effective against them at home. He’s lost his last three starts at McAfee Coliseum to Seattle, including a 4-2 loss on April 16 in which he gave up four runs and a season-high 12 hits in eight innings.
Seattle’s Miguel Batista (4-10, 6.27) hasn’t lasted past the fifth inning in his last three road starts. He has a 10.80 ERA in that span and hasn’t won on the road since April 20 against the Angels.
This will be Batista’s second start since he was dropped from the rotation after June 7. He gave up eight runs in an 8-2 loss to the New York Mets in his last start on June 25.
The veteran right-hander has enjoyed plenty of success at the Coliseum, however, going 4-1 with a 1.91 ERA in six career starts. Batista lost his only start against the A’s this season on April 25 at home, giving up three runs and five walks in one-plus inning in a 4-3 loss.