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Series #51: Athletics at Mariners - The Playoff Race That Wasn’t

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Mariners’ Current Record:

85-70, third place in the AL West, 8.5 games behind the A’s for the final wild card spot and officially eliminated from postseason contention. The Mariners’ playoff drought is the longest in the sport.

Possible Lineup:

Mitch Haniger - CF

Jean Segura - SS

Robinson Cano - 1B

Nelson Cruz - DH

Denard Span - LF

Kyle Seager - 3B

Ben Gamel - RF

Mike Zunino - C

Dee Gordon - 2B

Probable Starting Pitchers:

James Paxton - LHP

Mike Leake - RHP

Felix Hernandez - RHP

Hottest Hitter(s):

Despite the Mariners’ budget and star-studded cast, the unquestionably best offensive player the Mariners have is Mitch Haniger, who has taken over the leadoff spot in the Mariners’ lineup and thrived, where he will likely remain to torment the A’s for years to come. Over the last month, Haniger has been hitting .317/.379/.596 with five home runs, the most on the team during that time frame. After appearing a little rusty in his return from suspension, Robinson Cano has picked up his hitting once more, and has a .935 OPS with nearly as many walks as strikeouts in his last twenty or so games.

Coldest Hitter(s):

For a team with as many big names on offense as the Mariners, it is almost insulting that the team’s best option for a number five hitter is Denard Span. Lately, Span is hitting a scant .188/.278/.328 in the heart of Seattle’s order. Ryon Healy’s power has all but evaporated in the season’s second half, with just one home run during the last month of play, and the only reason he isn’t losing more playing time to Robinson Cano is Dee Gordon and his .602 OPS with just one stolen base since August.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

People kept saying Wade LeBlanc couldn’t do what he was doing all season long, and here he is, at the end of the season, with good overall numbers and a 1.83 ERA over his last six starts. For a long time, many people believed the Mariners’ playoff hopes rested largely on LeBlanc’s success in the rotation, but instead of LeBlanc letting the team down, it was everyone else. As has been the case all season long, the Mariners’ back end of the bullpen has been a shut down force.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

James Paxton, the other guy to toss a no-no this year, like Manaea, has been batting injuries and hasn’t been able to make it to the mound much at all. When he has made it to the mound, the results have been mediocre, giving up seven runs in eleven innings over his last two starts. Erasmo Ramirez has allowed twenty runs in his last twenty innings pitched.

Key Injuries:

The latest major injury for the Mariners is versatile reliever Juan Nicasio going down with a knee injury, and he is likely out for the season.

* * *

The A’s are on the road for one final time this regular season, taking a short trip up to Seattle for three games before ending the season with three in Los Angeles. Should the A’s win just one game, they will guarantee themselves a trip to the postseason, though if the Rays lose just one the result is the same. Should the A’s win out the remainder of their schedule, they can reach one hundred wins, and possibly snag the division or top wild card spot in the process. Doing so won’t be easy, of course, as the Mariners and Angels, each of whom saw themselves well above the A’s at the season’s outset, would like nothing more than to play spoiler to place the A’s in the worst playoff position possible.

The A’s are losing the season series to the Mariners 9-7, though the Mariners’ dominance is largely propelled by the A’s early season struggles against AL Western foes, and in recent matchups the A’s looked far and away to be the stronger team of the two. The primary focus for the A’s this week, though, should be getting the team prepared for the playoffs- getting the rotation set, keeping the remainder of the roster healthy, resting the overworked bullpen without letting key guys get too rusty, and determining who will be on the bench on offense for the postseason.

Game #157: Monday, September 24th, 7:10 - NBCSCA, ROOT NW, MLB Network,

Daniel Mengden vs James Paxton

Mengden has been following Liam Hendriks since getting recalled back to the big league club from Nashville, but on Monday night he will be taking the mound straight away in the first inning. Mengden has been one of the best pitchers on the team in September, and the team is rewarding his good performance with the trust to make the actual start. Paxton missed his last two starts due to illness, and hopes to be fully recovered for the season’s last week.

Game #158: Tuesday, September 25th, 7:10 - NBCSCA, ROOT NW,

Brett Anderson vs Mike Leake

Out of all the miracle starters the A’s have pulled out of their magic hats, perhaps the most unappreciated is Brett Anderson, who, when healthy and not getting BABIP’d to death, has been the ace of the squad since the start of August. In his most recent start, he pitched nearly seven scoreless innings versus the Angels. Leake has been a serviceable back end starter, giving Seattle lots of innings and consistent starts. He has pitched fairly well against the A’s this year, but is still winless in a handful of efforts.

Game #159: Wednesday, September 26th, 7:10 - NBCSCA, ROOT NW,

Edwin Jackson vs Felix Hernandez

Wednesday’s game could potentially be the last game King Felix starts in a Mariners’ uniform, as his status in the rotation for next season is questionable- an idea that was unthinkable just a few years ago. But while age is sapping the abilities of Hernandez, Jackson appears to be defying age at every turn. While the A’s don’t typically allow Jackson to pitch more than five innings, or so, the innings he does give the A’s are usually high quality.