Close wins set up Mariners to go for sweep of host A’s

MLB Baseball

The Seattle Mariners will be shooting for their first three-game road sweep over the Oakland Athletics since September 2016 when the American League West clubs complete their first head-to-head series of the season on Wednesday afternoon.

The Mariners have used the same formula — scoring early and holding on late — for 4-2 and 4-3 victories in the first two games.

Rafael Montero came out of the bullpen to play different roles in the wins, entering in the seventh inning and recording a hold in Monday’s win, before getting called upon in a save situation on Tuesday and stranding the potential tying run in scoring position.

The hold was his third of the year, the save his sixth.

Jarred Kelenic is another Mariner who has contributed to both wins. The highly regarded prospect hit a solo home run and scored a second run in the series opener, then drove in what turned out to be the difference-making run with one of his two hits in Tuesday’s rematch.

The Mariners’ winning streak has coincided with getting first baseman Ty France back in the lineup after he had suffered a wrist injury in the field diving for a ball at Houston last month.

After playing through the injury and then getting 10 days off, France doubled in his return Monday, then added two hits, one an RBI single, in Tuesday’s win.

“It’s tough hitting without a bottom hand. I’ll just leave it at that,” France noted of a 2-for-38 stretch after suffering the injury that saw his average plummet from .301 to .229. “It didn’t hurt every single swing, but most swings, it was just a lot of discomfort and I tried to push through it. It just got to a point where I wasn’t helping the team, and I was just hurting myself more. So, finally, I said something.”

The Mariners even outplayed the A’s defensively Tuesday, getting lead-protecting catches by Kyle Lewis in center field and Mitch Haniger in right.

Afterward, Mariners manager Scott Servais called Haniger’s catch at the fence in the eighth inning “game-saving.” His counterpart, Oakland skipper Bob Melvin, was more impressed with Lewis’ diving catch in left-center with two aboard in the fifth.

“It’s the difference in the game,” Melvin proclaimed.

The Mariners will have to deal with a relative stranger in going for the sweep, with the A’s scheduled to start right-hander James Kaprielian (1-0, 2.53 ERA). The 27-year-old has appeared in just four major-league games, two in relief last season and two in injury-replacement starting roles this year.

He recorded his first big-league win in his first start earlier this month at Boston, a 4-1 win in which he worked the first five innings, allowing one run on four hits. He walked three and struck out six.

Drafted but not signed by the Mariners out of a Southern California high school in 2012, Kaprielian got mop-up duty in a 12-3 A’s loss to Seattle last season. He gave up a home run to Kyle Seager in 1 2/3 innings, during which he allowed two runs and three hits.

That one appearance left him with a 10.80 ERA against the Mariners.

In what Servais has dubbed a bullpen game, right-hander Robert Dugger (0-0, 4.15) is scheduled to start for the Mariners. The 25-year-old former Miami Marlin has never faced the A’s in his three-year career.

–Field Level Media

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