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Athletics at Mariners: Mariners Sinking

Welcome back, old friends!
Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

It is no fun going from the sweeper to the sweepy, but, in the form of Clifton Randolph Pennington smoking a go-ahead grand slam off of a hapless Chris Hatcher, the A’s did just that. Not many teams lose a game wherein the offense scores eight runs in a single inning, but the A’s and their mighty bullpen of mediocrity have the ability to undue rallies just as quickly as those rallies appear. On the flip side, a series where the A’s probable 2018-and-beyond core plays well, and the bullpen and irrelevant starters lose the games anyways is the best case scenario for those who want the team to compete next year but also get the highest possible draft pick.

  • Houston: 80-53
  • Anaheim: 69-65
  • Texas: 66-67
  • Seattle: 66-68
  • Oakland: 58-75

In preparation for the September push, most of the AL West was pretty busy yesterday at the August Trade Deadline. After many of the players and fans of the Astros complained that the team did too little at the July Trade Deadline, and was too focused on hoarding its prospects, the Astros swung a last-minute trade with the Tigers for TOR Justin Verlander, who now gets to plague the A’s ever-more frequently. The Astros also claimed the speedy outfielder Cameron Maybin from the Angels after he was placed on waivers to shore up on defense and have more base stealing threats.

Those Angels didn’t have a need for Maybin any more because they managed to work out a couple of major trades of their own. The team also made a big trade with the Tigers for slugging outfielder Justin Upton, finally giving Mike Trout some proper protection in the hole-filled Angels’ batting order, as well as a smaller, but still significant, trade for Brandon Phillips. The Rangers, needing more starting pitching for their unexpected playoff push after trading away Yu Darvish a month prior, swung a deal with the White Sox for starter Miguel Gonzalez.

The Mariners, who have lost five consecutive games entering this three game set, traded Leonys Martin to the Cubs for cash or a PTBNL (not Josh Phegley) and acquired veteran starter Mike Leake. A solid starter, and some addition by subtraction.

The moves may not have been enough, however. After Alonso homer’d Seattle to victory in a hard-fought extra innings affair versus the Yankees, the Mariners have been outscored 33-17 and lost every contest they’ve played. After finally surging ahead in the standings after so many false starts over the course of the season, the Mariners have more losses than wins once again and the team is at the rear of the Wild Card chase.

As per usual, Nelson Cruz is carrying the Mariners’ offense, with most of the rest of the team turning in average-at-best seasons. The slugging DH has an OPS of 1.147 over the last month of play and has been the sole reason the Mariners’ haven’t sunk even further down in the standings, with his ability to produce runs. Robinson Cano is amidst a power outage, and Kyle Seager has looked lost at the plate all season, and is reaching base less frequently now than ever before.

The starting pitching for Seattle has been atrocious. Newly acquired Mike Leake has a post-All-Star-Break ERA of 6.90, which is horrendous but actually better than all of Ariel Miranda, Yovani Gallardo, and Marco Gonzalez, who have ERA’s over seven over the last month. Until James Paxton and Felix Hernandez return from injury, this team’s pitching is on life support. But the Mariners may not still be in the chase when their returns are scheduled, and every game for the Mariners right now is a must-win.

The Matchups

Friday, September 1st at 7:10 - Sean Manaea vs Mike Leake

Saturday, September 2nd at 6:10 - Jharel Cotton vs Yovani Gallardo

Sunday, September 3rd at 1:10 - Daniel Gossett vs Andrew Albers

How the A’s Win the Series

The A’s are looking to bounce back after getting swept out of Orange County. Luckily, despite all of the pitching woes that have inflicted the A’s, the Mariners’ pitching woes may be worse, and the A’s can take advantage.

Mike Leake is making his debut for the Mariners, having had an amazing start to the year but a lousy finish. While his potential is certainly there, there are signs that he has been tiring on the year, and the transition from the National League to the American League can be tougher than many expect. Yovani Gallardo has pitched rather poorly for the Mariners all year, but has been superb against the A’s, specifically, surrendering runs at half the rate he does versus the rest of the league and earning half of his pitcher-wins. Andrew Albers has been the Mariners’ best starter since being traded from the Braves a couple weeks ago, but even he couldn’t stop the Mariners from themselves as he was the victim of the infamous 5-error-inning the Mariners had against the Yankees, in a display of defense that would have made the first-half A’s proud.

This is pitching that the A’s offense can pounce on, and the A’s are sending their expected 2018 ace and two more rotation candidates to the mound, so the potential on the mound for the A’s is certainly there. So long as the offense does its job, and the bullpen doesn’t dance its usual dance, this could be a rare-winnable road series for the A’s, and a road series win may just all but eliminate the Mariners from playoff contention.

And isn’t that what September baseball in a losing season is all about?