Despite trading away one of their top pitchers, the Oakland Athletics still believe they can contend for the division crown. If they are indeed serious about the postseason, winning a home series over the AL-worst Seattle Mariners shouldn’t be a difficult task.
In Thursday’s series finale, the Athletics look to bounce back from a loss and take three of four games from the Mariners before the AL West leaders come to town for an important weekend set.
On Tuesday, Oakland (49-42) traded starter Rich Harden to the Chicago Cubs for four young players. Although the A’s appeared to be conceding the division with the trade, they insist they are still trying to make a playoff run.
After winning its first two games over Seattle, Oakland lost 6-4 to the Mariners on Wednesday. The A’s remain five games back of the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels, who arrive in Oakland Friday for a three-game series.
While the Mariners (36-55) have the worst record in the AL this season, they frequently manage to frustrate Oakland. The A’s have lost 11 of 14 home games to Seattle since the start of last season.
The Mariners put an end to a three-game overall losing streak Wednesday with a five-run fifth inning. Seattle had scored four total runs during its skid.
“Down 4-1, we’ve lost three in a row and had great pitching,” Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. “It could have been discouraging, but these guys held their heads up.”
The first two hitters in the batting order once again led the Mariners Wednesday, as eight-time All-Star Ichiro Suzuki singled three times and scored a run and second baseman Jose Lopez drove in three runs and scored twice. Lopez has four doubles and six RBIs in his last six games.
Riggleman gives the ball to R.A. Dickey (2-4, 4.36 ERA) in the series finale.
Dickey gave up two runs - both on solo homers - four hits and issued a season-high five walks in six innings of a 3-2 win over Detroit on Saturday, but was not a factor in the decision. Despite the home runs, the right-hander, who began the season in the bullpen, has been pitching much better lately. He is 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA over his last three outings after posting a 20.25 ERA in losing his previous two starts.
Dickey, who has not faced the A’s since 2005, is 0-3 with a 9.26 ERA in five career starts versus Oakland.
Oakland counters with rookie left-hander Greg Smith (5-7, 3.62), who makes his first career start against the Mariners.
After giving up four hits and two walks in a complete-game 6-1 win over the Angels on June 30, Smith yielded four runs with five hits and six walks in five innings of a 6-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Saturday.
“You’re never going to stop learning in this game, you’re never going to stop making adjustments,” Smith told the Athletics’ official Web site. “There’s a learning curve, I guess you could say, and I feel I’m right there.”
Smith is also trying to get back on track at home, where he has allowed nine runs in 12 innings to lose his last two starts.