Seattle Mariners batter Andrew Romine (7) grimances as he strikes out in the 9th inning against the Houston Astros on August 1 at Safeco Field in Seattle. Photo by Jim Bryant/UPI | License Photo
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The two teams currently battling for the second American League wild-card playoff spot go head-to-head in a three-game series that begins Monday night with a matchup of the teams' top winners.
Seattle left-hander Marco Gonzales (12-7, 3.79 ERA) and Oakland left-hander Sean Manaea (10-8, 3.50) kick off a series that begins with the A's (70-48) 1 1/2 games up on the Mariners (69-50).
Seattle is coming off a four-game sweep of the AL West-leading Houston Astros (73-46), which brought the second-place A's and third-place Mariners closer to the top.
Mariners manager Scott Servais credited a wakeup call the club received when losing two of three to the last-place Texas Rangers as the key to the turnaround in Houston.
"It's simple. I think we got ahead of ourselves," he said of the Texas series. "We get so locked in on winning, winning, winning and you forget about just playing good baseball. We've played good baseball in (the Houston) series and cut down on the silly mistakes."
The Mariners have done just about everything right against the A's so far this season, winning three series by 2-1 counts. The clubs will play 10 more times, starting Monday, in the final seven weeks of the regular season.
Gonzales pitched two of the earlier six wins over the A's, including seven shutout innings in a 1-0 victory in Oakland in May.
He's 1-0 with a 2.51 ERA in three games, including two starts, against Oakland in his career.
Gonzales lost his last start at Texas and he enters the game having allowed 19 hits and 11 runs in 12 innings over his last two starts. He's 0-2 in August after going 4-0 in July.
Gonzales likely will be without his safety net in the series opener. Mariners closer Edwin Diaz pitched in all four games of the Houston series, saving each win and becoming the first pitcher to post saves in all four games of a sweep since 2004.
Manaea also is coming off a poor effort, lasting a season-low 2 2/3 innings in a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers last week. He was pulled after allowing five hits and three walks, resulting in three runs.
Manaea is 4-4 with a 4.12 ERA in nine career starts against Seattle.
The A's are returning home after a three-game jaunt to Los Angeles, where they outlasted the Angels 8-7 on Sunday to win two of three.
They've won nine of 11 overall, and Monday open a nine-game homestand against three AL West opponents.
"It will be a good test," A's third baseman Matt Chapman said of a stretch that includes three games later this week against the Astros. "When we come out of the other side (of playing 20 games in 20 days, beginning Friday against Houston), we'll see what we're really made of."
Like Gonzales, Manaea also has one impressive outing against Monday's opponent. He held the Mariners to two hits and one run in seven innings of a 2-1 win in April at Seattle.
The A's will get an opportunity to show off their new and improved bullpen to the Mariners, with Jeurys Familia, Fernando Rodney and Shawn Kelley having been added to closer Blake Treinen's supporting cast.