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Previewing the Series: Oakland A's vs. Seattle Mariners

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COMMENTARY | The Oakland Athletics are coming off their second consecutive series loss, this time dropping 3 of 4 against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Despite beating staff ace Yu Darvish, Oakland failed to earn a split by losing three games started by Nick Tepesch, Justin Grimm and Justin Lindblom, who respectively have 4.84, 5.57 and 5.40 earned run averages. In a word, brutal.

Ultimately, it was the A's pitching, which had been brilliant of late, that let them down. Despite scoring seven runs in the opener, the combination of Dan Straily and Jesse Chavez allowed three home runs in defeat. After beating Darvish behind a strong Jarrod Parker outing, Tommy Milone surrendered six runs in 5.1 innings.

In the series finale, it was a team effort to lose with the offense stranding 13 runners while the pitchers gave up three one-run leads in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

The A's maintain a one-game lead over the Rangers, and now visit the Seattle Mariners, a team that beat them 2 of 3 in Oakland from June 14-16.

Pitching matchups:

Bartolo Colon (9-2, 2.89 ERA) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (7-2, 2.06 ERA)

If somebody had told you this would be a battle of potential All-Stars in February, you likely would have laughed until it hurt. However, we find ourselves with a true gem on paper with Colon and Iwakuma battling for the second time in less than a week. On June 16 at Coliseum, Colon pitched seven innings, giving up two runs; Iwakuma was tagged with the loss, allowing four runs and eight hits in five frames.

Dan Straily (4-2, 4.97) vs. Aaron Harang (3-7, 5.93)

This most certainly isn't a battle of potential All-Stars. Straily is typical of a young pitcher: inconsistent. In 11 starts this season, Straily has only five quality starts but four have come in his last six outings. He has only faced Seattle once in 2013, back on May 10, and took the loss, torched for six earned runs in five innings. There isn't much to say on the positive side for Harang, an ex-A's hurler. However, he doesn't walk many batters, with nine free passes in 59.2 innings.

Jarrod Parker (6-6, 4.30) vs. Jeremy Bonderman (1-1, 3.28)

Both Parker and Bonderman have a good chance to shine in the contest if recent play continues. Parker has a 1.91 ERA in June and hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in a game since May 6 while pitching at least into the seventh inning in every game during that span. Bonderman has made only four starts this campaign but forgetting his first appearance, he's been almost untouchable. In his last three games, Bonderman has pitched 20 innings and allowed two earned runs.

Hot hitters to watch

Ex-Mariner John Jaso has been on fire for the A's in June. Playing in 11 games, Jaso has amassed a .368 average and .468 on-base percentage. Coco Crisp has also been igniting the offense from the leadoff spot, batting .316 in his last 15 games. For power, Brandon Moss has smashed a club-high six home runs in June.

Seattle has also seen good production at the top of its lineup. Outfielder Endy Chavez is batting .305 since turning the calendar. Kyle Seager has proved to be a nice young player for the M's and is continuing his solid work with a pair of homers and a .288 average over his last 18 games.

Final thought

So far in 2013, Seattle has beaten Oakland in 6 of 10 games. While the Mariners are looking to climb back toward the .500 mark (currently 32-41 going into the evening of June 20), the A's are hoping to get back on track after losing five of their last seven.

Oakland also knows what awaits it next week, with the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals coming to town. Getting out of Safeco Field with a series win would do an awful lot of good for the first-place A's.

Matt Verderame is a lifelong Oakland A's follower and has been published in the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin and also at SB Nation among other papers and websites. His twitter handle is @MattVerderame.

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