Mariners-Athletics Preview


The Oakland Athletics have had their hands full in the first two games of this weekend set, and they could be in for another long day at the plate Sunday.

Runs may be hard to come by for the Mariners, too.

In what sets up as a pitchers' duel, Hisashi Iwakuma takes the mound opposite Bartolo Colon as the visiting Mariners try for their first three-game road sweep of the Athletics in more than four years.

After snapping Oakland's 11-game home winning streak with Friday's 3-2 win, Seattle (31-38) pulled out a 4-0 victory Saturday for its fourth win in five games. The Mariners, who improved to 6-3 in the series this year, haven't swept the A's in Oakland since April 10-12, 2009.

Felix Hernandez combined with two relievers on a six-hitter and 41-year-old Henry Blanco provided all the offense in his team debut, becoming the oldest Mariner to hit a grand slam.

"I was hoping I could still get a job and show them I can still play," said Blanco, who was signed Friday - four days after his release by Toronto. "That was a special day."

Seattle now turns to Iwakuma (7-1, 1.79 ERA), who leads the AL with a 6.21 strikeout-to-walk ratio and ranks second in the majors in ERA. The right-hander, who's gone 28 2-3 innings without allowing an earned run, is 5-0 over a nine-start stretch and 10-1 with a 1.81 ERA over his last 17 outings dating to September.

"He's been about as consistent as any pitcher in baseball, and for quite a while now," manager Eric Wedge told MLB's official website.

Iwakuma beat Houston on Monday, allowing one unearned run and four hits while striking out eight in seven innings of a 3-2 victory.

"He has that four-seamer that like goes downhill then flattens out, with the split off that," shortstop Brendan Ryan said. "He has his change, slider. He uses his big curveball a lot to get ahead. He's got a complete repertoire and uses it intelligently. This is what we've come to expect out of him now. It's pretty awesome."

Iwakuma has baffled Oakland (41-29) in two wins this year, allowing three runs in 13 innings with 16 strikeouts and no walks. Seth Smith, Josh Reddick and Brandon Moss are a combined 0 for 19 against him while Coco Crisp and Josh Donaldson are both 1 for 7. Yoenis Cespedes, though, is 3 for 9 with two homers and a double in their matchups.

Colon (8-2, 2.92) has also shined this year, and he's been especially good over the last three-plus weeks. The former AL Cy Young award winner has surrendered a combined three runs during a five-start winning streak.

"He's throwing the ball great," catcher Derek Norris said of Colon, who won a career-best six straight outings July 9-Aug. 7, 2004. "You couldn't ask any more of him. He's a great competitor and a great pitcher, and it's a pleasure to be back there working with him."

Having allowed just 10 walks all year, Colon issued a season-high four Tuesday but managed to limit the damage, allowing three hits over six scoreless innings in a 6-4 win over the Yankees.

"His ball moves," Yankees catcher Chris Stewart. "It does different things at different times. Sometimes it's going more side to side, sometimes it's going more down. He's tough. He uses both sides of the plate, he doesn't really throw the same pitch twice. He just keeps you off balance."

Colon went 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA over four starts versus Seattle in 2012, yielding a combined two runs in three of those outings and seven in the other. Kendrys Morales and Michael Saunders are both 1 for 11 versus Colon and Ryan is 0 for 8.

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