Athletics host Mariners in key division series

MLB Baseball

The Seattle Mariners get an opportunity to make up ground on the Oakland Athletics in the American League West and wild-card races when the clubs open a two-game series in California on Monday night.

The Mariners rallied late to draw even, then used a four-run 11th inning to stun the first-place Houston Astros on Sunday and pick up a game on the A’s, who lost their second straight at home to the San Francisco Giants.

Oakland begins the week 3 1/2 games behind the Astros in the West, and three games in front of the third-place Mariners.

At the same time, the A’s have fallen into a tie with the Boston Red Sox for the second AL wild-card spot, again three games up on Seattle.

The Mariners and A’s still have nine games remaining, with six in Oakland. The Mariners have won six of the first 10 meetings, including the last three.

Seattle lost two of three at Houston, but didn’t lose any ground on the A’s, who dropped both weekend games against the rival Giants.

Mariners manager Scott Servais hopes Sunday’s improbable win can be used as a springboard to bigger and better things.

“We have tough losses, and it looks like we’re going to fall off the edge of a cliff,” he said after Sunday’s win. “But this team just comes back every day for work. We don’t look backward. We look forward instead of looking at what happened before. And that’s what we did (Sunday).”

The Mariners will open the Oakland series with left-hander Marco Gonzales (5-5, 4.10 ERA) on the mound.

The 29-year-old has been brilliant in August, going 2-0 with a 0.67 ERA in four starts. He is unbeaten in his last seven outings, going 4-0 with a 1.87 ERA since July 3.

One of those wins came at home against the A’s on July 25, when he allowed two runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. He’s 6-3 with a 3.77 ERA against Oakland in 13 career head-to-heads, 12 of which have been starts.

The A’s are scheduled to counter with right-hander Paul Blackburn (0-1, 5.06), who is expected to take on a more prominent role in the Oakland rotation now that ace Chris Bassitt is out indefinitely with a facial fracture.

The 27-year-old was promoted from the minors to make his season debut last Wednesday in a 3-2 road loss against the Chicago White Sox, allowing all three of the runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings.

He’s made two previous starts against the Mariners in his career, going 1-1 with a 7.20 ERA.

The A’s begin the series searching for answers in their bullpen. Oakland relievers gave up lead-losing home runs to Giants pinch hitters both Saturday and Sunday, with seldom used A.J. Puk getting a shot with a 1-0 lead in the eighth inning Sunday after Lou Trivino had lost Saturday’s lead.

“That was a good opportunity for A.J.,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of the prospect for whom Oakland is searching for a role. “He gets two outs and then he gets the walk on a debatable 3-2 pitch. A lot of times, (walks) end up hurting you.”

Donovan Solano followed the walk with a go-ahead homer.

–Field Level Media

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