Mariners-Athletics Preview

The Associated PressJuly 7, 2012

It wasn't long ago when the Oakland Athletics were at their lowest point of the season.

But after matching their longest winning streak of the season, things are really starting to look up for the surging A's.

Oakland will try to move above .500 for the first time in nearly seven weeks Saturday night when it continues its series against the visiting Seattle Mariners.

Since dropping three straight at Arizona to fall a season-high nine games below the break-even point, Oakland (42-42) has gone 16-7 to get back to .500 for the first time since it was 22-22 on May 22.

The A's have a chance to move above that mark - they were last there May 21 - after Chris Carter's walkoff three-run homer in Friday's 4-1, 11-inning victory over Seattle (35-50).

While the A's have homered in 16 consecutive games - the club's longest streak since a 17-game stretch April 12-May 1, 2002 - the pitching staff has carried the club this month with an 0.96 ERA.

With Tommy Milone throwing seven innings of one-run ball Friday, the A's set an Oakland record with seven consecutive starters giving up one earned run or fewer.

Saturday's starter Jarrod Parker (5-3, 2.46 ERA) will look to continue that as Oakland goes for its first six-game run since June 15-21, 2011.

By yielding one run in 6 2-3 innings of Monday's 6-1 victory over Boston, the rookie right-hander became the first pitcher since Ferdie Schupp of the New York Giants in 1913-17 to allow one run or fewer 10 times in his first 14 career starts.

"It's just cool,'' said Parker, 3-0 with a 1.01 ERA in his last four outings since getting tagged for six runs in an 8-3 loss at Arizona on June 9. "Obviously it's something I never really thought of and didn't think it was possible at all. ... I do what I can and will try to do less than one run every time.''

In his first start against the Mariners, Parker allowed one run in seven innings of a 2-1 road win June 27.

He'll face a Seattle club that's batting .174 with 22 total runs scored during a 4-8 skid.

"Unless they're just not paying attention or are just dumb, they should be able to find a way to get back to it and be more consistent,'' manager Eric Wedge said. "But you have to be much better than this offensively.''

Trying to avoid their first four-game slide since a six-game stretch June 9-15, the AL-worst Mariners will give the ball to Jason Vargas (7-7, 4.31) on Saturday.

The left-hander is 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in five starts since his last victory, but he took a positive step Sunday with eight strong innings in a 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Red Sox.

"It was good," Vargas told the Mariners' official website. "I attacked the strike zone, got them to put the ball in play early."

Vargas, though, has already allowed as many homers this season (22) as he did in 2011 when he threw a career-high 201 innings.

In three starts against the A's this season - one in Oakland, one in Seattle and one in Tokyo on March 29 - Vargas has given up two homers, with both coming off the bat of rookie left fielder Yoenis Cespedes.

Five of Cespedes' nine home runs have come in the 11 games versus Seattle.

The Mariners have hit seven homers against their AL West foes in 2012.