#927 Oakland A'svs.#928 Seattle Mariners
Written by Matt Severance
When/Where: Friday, 10:10 p.m. ET, Safeco Field, Seattle
Moneylines: Mariners -210, A’s +195; total: 8.5
It’s the final home series of the season for the Seattle Mariners, who still have an outside shot at a wild-card spot (as of this writing) or at least a 163rd game to get a wild-card spot but are likely to continue the longest playoff drought in baseball. The Oakland A’s are just playing out the string. Here’s a preview of Friday’s Game 2 between the AL West rivals.
Seriously, unless you are an Oakland baseball fan can you name me more than five players on the current roster? It’s probably the most non-descript team in the American League and only surpassed in that regard by the San Diego Padres. This marks just the second time the A’s have posted back-to-back 90-loss seasons since moving to Oakland. This marks the first time the A’s have finished with a losing record in back-to-back seasons since they had three straight from 2007-09. The team has finished in last place in consecutive seasons just once in Oakland history (1997-98). One bright spot has been the play of young third baseman Ryon Healy as he is making a strong case to be the team’s starter there next season by hitting around .300 since being called up.
The A’s start rookie right-hander Raul Alcantara (1-2, 5.75) on the mound here. The 23-year-old was called up in early September when rosters expanded and has made four starts. He allowed four runs and seven hits over six innings last time out vs. Texas. He faced Seattle on Sept. 11 and allowed two runs and seven hits over 5.2 innings in a no-decision. Mike Zunino hit a two-run homer off him.
Even if the Mariners sweep this series, it might not be enough to get into the second wild-card spot or a playoff for one. They will be scoreboard-watching as to what the Orioles and Tigers do this weekend. Seattle’s loss to Houston on Tuesday with ace Felix Hernandez on the mound was a crusher. The Mariners led 4-2 in the sixth with Hernandez on the mound, only to play an ugly and disastrous half-inning, making five defensive miscues as the Astros scored six runs. Scott Servais likely kept Hernandez in to face at least one batter too many.
Here, the Mariners go with young right-hander Taijuan Walker (7-11, 4.35). He comes off a win at Minnesota, allowing three runs and nine hits with seven strikeouts in 5.1 innings. Walker hasn’t been quite as sharp since a brilliant complete-game three-hitter with 11 strikeouts and 113 pitches on Sept. 13 at the Angels. He’ll close out his regular season against a team that has given him trouble as he is 0-2 with a 5.16 ERA in six games against Oakland, including four starts. Danny Valencia is 1-for-6 against him. Stephen Vogt is 3-for-12 with a homer and two RBIs. Khris Davis, among the AL home run leaders, is 1-for-6 with two strikeouts vs. Walker.
Always go with the team that has motivation at this point in the season and that’s still Seattle. Don’t care that Walker has struggled vs. Oakland. Plus he does have a 2.03 ERA in two starts against the A’s this year. The Mariners are 8-1 in their past nine vs. teams with a losing record.
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Matt has been a sports journalist for nearly two decades. He is a former sports editor/writer at two newspapers and a magazine. Went full-time freelance sports writer in 2008 -- not by choice then but became a life-changing decision in the best possible way. Consider myself expert on all major US sports. If you are looking for Curling or Badminton expertise, etc., I'm not your guy.