The struggling Seattle Mariners go from facing one division leader to another when they open a three-game road series against the Oakland Athletics on Monday night.
Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (1-3, 4.32 ERA), winless in three May starts despite 26 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings, will be seeking his first-ever win against the A’s when he’s matched against Oakland right-hander Frankie Montas (5-3, 4.79).
Kikuchi, in his third season, has made two previous career starts in Oakland, going 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA. He’s 0-2 in six starts overall against the A’s despite a 2.73 ERA.
Kikuchi, 29, has allowed multiple homers in three of his eight starts this season and faces an Oakland squad that leads the American League with 68 home runs. The A’s have clubbed 12 homers in their last four games, including nine while winning two of three games against the host Los Angeles Angels.
Matt Olson and Seth Brown continued Oakland’s homer assault in Sunday’s 6-5 loss, with Olson hitting his team-leading 12th and Brown his eighth.
Brown has homered in each of his last three games, continuing a surprising 35-game run for a guy who hadn’t homered in his first 33 major league games over two seasons.
The A’s saw the possibility of a three-game sweep escape them Sunday when the Angels scored five runs in three innings against the Oakland bullpen, which was resting its most reliable arm, Jake Diekman.
“You want to leave town with three wins,” catcher Sean Murphy noted afterward. “But we set goals to win series so we say, ‘Hey, we won the series.’ But give credit to (the Angels). They didn’t just roll over and let us have one.”
The A’s and Mariners will be meeting for the first time this season. They’ll get to know one another quickly — they also are scheduled for a three-game set in Seattle beginning on Memorial Day.
The Mariners continued a roller-coaster ride when they swept in San Diego by the Padres in a three-game set that ended with a 9-2 thrashing on Sunday. Seattle was outscored 31-7 in the series.
The loss was the sixth straight for the Mariners. In their eight games before the skid, they lost five in a row, then rebounded to win three straight.
Montas has faced the Mariners seven times in his career, including four times as a starter, going 2-1 with a 2.76 ERA.
He has allowed just two career homers to current Mariners, including one to Mitch Haniger, who is from the San Francisco Bay Area. Haniger has come up big against the A’s in his career, hitting 11 home runs in 39 games. Four of those 11 homers have come in 19 games at Oakland.
Montas and the A’s will be seeing top Mariners prospect Jarred Kelenic for the first time. The 21-year-old went hitless in nine at-bats in the three-game series against the Padres, dropping his average to .135 (5-for-37).
“He’s used to getting a lot of hits, and those aren’t coming his way,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais, who watched Kelenic ground out as a pinch hitter in his lone at-bat on Sunday. “He’s in a good spot. He’s going to be just fine.”
–Field Level Media