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Athletics vs Mariners: Farewell Yonder, Hello Yonder

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Oakland Athletics Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

One of the final placeholders still on the A’s roster has been dealt, albeit a placeholder who channeled hard work and determination into a new swing and a monster of a season that could have earned him an extension with the club, but it was not meant to be. Yonder Alonso brought a lot to the field this season, but perhaps his most important role was that of a mentor to a young and maturing A’s team and an invaluable member of the Oakland community. He now has his chance to play for a contender and make a playoff run, and as he sits across the field in tonight’s game in the oppositions dugout, it is time for Oakland to repay Alonso for all of his hard work and influence by playing spoiler and ensuring that his team misses the playoffs entirely.

· Houston: 71-40

· Seattle: 57-56

· Anaheim: 55-58

· Texas: 53-58

· Oakland: 50-62

The Mariners have superior hitting and fielding (the former by just a smidge and the latter by the entire universe), but the A’s have the advantage in the starting pitching department, Sonny Gray or no Sonny Gray, and both bullpens had long been similarly effective before the A’s traded away all of their good relievers, and the Mariners, ever tweaking their roster, made a flurry of small trades to bolster their own pen. The Mariners are tantalizingly close to the second Wild Card spot, despite the team struggling to clear that pesky .500 winning percentage that the team only eclipsed during the last three games, and so a hot streak can put Seattle right back into the thick of things. The Angels, too, briefly passed over the more-wins-than-losses barrier Houston appears to have put in place before the A’s put Anaheim back in their place and sowed the seeds of a losing streak for the Angels.

It is fast approaching now-or-never for the Mariners, its players can unfortunately only move forwards through time, and player age and decline is lurking around every corner. Injuries keep popping up again and again for longtime Seattle stars like Felix Hernandez, who is expected to miss about a month with the same injury he had had earlier this year. There is little impact help waiting in the wings in the minor leagues. So while that doesn’t bode well for the Mariners long term, it means that right now the team is full of hungry players champing at the bit to make a big impression on every game that helps their team win, before its too late. If Seattle doesn’t sweep the A’s in this short, two game series, players and fans alike in Seattle will not be happy one bit.

Which is why, when there is nigh on else to root for during these trying times, being a spoiler is oh so sweet.

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not

Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano may be on the decline, but for now they are still producing at a more than acceptable level. The duo make a powerful force in the middle of Seattle’s lineup that can cause just about any pitcher to pull their hair out, and are the only players in the Mariners’ lineup with an OPS above .800. They are still surrounded by tons of talented key and role players, but young and old alike, and there aren’t any real automatic outs in the Mariners’ lineup.

But newest Mariner Yonder Alonso, as any fan in Oakland can tell you, has not really been the same player that he was in the first half of the year with the A’s. Alonso’s fly balls, and therefore his newfound ability to bang out impressive home runs, have all but completely dissipated, and as a result he has looked an awful lot like the player he spent years being, rather than the baseball behemoth who captured all of Oakland’s hearts in the early going of this year. Alonso is a student of the game and has an unquestionable drive and work ethic, so whatever problems he has been having will undoubtably be sorted through in due time.

The Matchups

Tuesday, August 8th at 7:05 – Kendall Graveman vs Ariel Miranda

Wednesday, August 9th at 12:35 – Jharel Cotton vs Yovani Gallardo

How the A’s Win the Series

The Mariners and A’s are in entirely different stages of their seasons. The Mariners are desperate to win just about every single game, and haven’t stopped for a second to continue tweaking and bolstering their roster further in order to keep their window open for juuuuust a little bit longer. The A’s window has been long shut, but the team is poised to take a cinder block to it and force it open sooner than people may think, though they still currently have the joys of next-to-no expectations.

Kendall Graveman has a chance to find his baseball legs again in front of a friendly crowd in Oakland, and Jharel Cotton has been getting closer to finding that consistency that has alluded him all season long, showing flashes of brilliance in each start alongside flashes of badness. If Graveman can get back to where he was before his injury, and Cotton can manage more brilliant flashes than bad ones, in front of the home crowd, with a strong and youthful defense behind them, the A’s can most certainly play spoilers for the Mariners and send them back down below .500, where they belong with the rest of the west.