The Oakland Athletics have fate in their own hands as they kick off the final two weeks of the regular season with a four-game home series against the Seattle Mariners that begins Monday night.
The A’s (82-67) and Mariners (80-69) both secured important victories on Sunday and are now head-to-head, separated from two games in the wildcard races of the American League West and the AL opposite to.
In the west, the second-placed A’s are six games behind the Houston Astros (88-61), with the third-placed Mariners eight behind.
Both are closer in AL’s wildcard pursuit, with the A’s two games behind the Toronto Blue Jays (84-65) and the Mariners four behind.
Each of A’s 13 remaining games is against either the Mariners or the Astros. After a seven-game home streak this week, with the Astros taking place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Oakland will end the regular season with six back-to-back games – three in Seattle and three in Houston.
After seeing his team win four games with two or fewer runs in the past five days, including a 3-2, 10-inning street affair against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday, A manager Bob Melvin believes that his team has recaptured some of the magic that Oakland has landed in the postseason for each of the last three seasons.
“We’ve had our problems with one-run games for a while, but that’s been our strong point for a while,” he said. “These guys know how to play close games. We recently started playing here as usual. It doesn’t surprise me.”
The Mariners have prevailed in seven of their first 11 face-to-face duels with the A’s, including a 5-3, 5-1 two-game sweep in Oakland in August.
While the A’s play against the Astros at the end of the next two weeks, the Mariners will have a date advantage as they will face the fourth-placed Angels in two series, including a regular season with three games. At home at the end of next week.
After an 8-1 loss to Kansas City on Saturday night that doubled their deficit behind the A’s, the Mariners bounced back from a big day from Jarred Kelenic to beat the Royals 7-1 on Sunday in what manager Scott Servais called Must be designated game.
“We had to win this series. We won this series,” Servais said of two out of three in Kansas City. “We’re going to Oakland and see what happens there.”
The Mariners are due to open the series with left-handed Tyler Anderson (6-9, 4.14 ERA) on the hill. He’s 5-4 years old since he was acquired by Pittsburgh in July.
Anderson pitched three times without a decision in September and allowed eight runs in 15 innings. Seattle won two of the three games.
The 31-year-old has only played against the A’s once in his career, last season with the San Francisco Giants. He went 5 2/3 innings in a 14-2 win at Oakland and earned the win while allowing no deserved runs.
Left winger Sean Manaea (10-9, 3.95), 2-0 in three September starts with 21 strikeouts in 19 innings, is expected to get the ball for Oakland.
Manaea has dominated the Mariners this season, enabling a run with just seven hits in 16 innings in two wins. He deleted 21 in those games.
The 29-year-old’s success in 2021 has allowed him to improve to 8-5 in 14 career starts against Seattle with 3.25 ERA.