BY Steve Rudman 12:33PM 09/11/2014

Mariners can finally get payback against A’s

After being tortured by the Oakland Athletics in their own division for more than a decade, the Mariners can take a big step toward the postseason this weekend.

The Mariners need a big series this weekend out of Kyle Seager, who went 0-for-11 in his last three against the Houston Astros. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Even with payrolls far below those of Seattle’s, the Oakland Athletics have spent more than a decade embarrassing the Mariners with smarter front-office management, more effective player acquisitions and better teams. Since 2003, the last year Seattle had a playoff opportunity, the low-rent A’s have won four division titles to none for the Mariners, and finished ahead of Seattle in the standings 10 times in 11 years.

Finally, the Mariners can deliver a punch to the snout of the pesky A’s. This weekend, the Mariners engage the Athletics in a three-game series at Safeco Field that will go a long way toward deciding American League wild card slots.

Although Seattle is coming off a put-a-paper bag-over-your-head series loss to the Houston Astros, they will face an Oakland club in the grip of an enormous choke. Since winning five of six heading into Aug. 9, when they held a four-game lead over the Angels in the division race, the Athletics are 9-21. In their past eight, the A’s have suffered seven one-run losses.

Since moving to Oakland, the only other time the A’s endured such an nasty eight-game span was in May 1969, when they followed a seven-game winning streak by losing seven of eight, including six one-run losses.

The A’s are paying a steep price for gutting their offense – they dealt their best hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, a Mariners slayer – in order to secure playoff pitching. Now Oakland is scrambling to ward off Seattle and Detroit.

With a weekend sweep, the Mariners (79-66) would move past the A’s (81-64), who still hold – barely — the AL’s first wild card position (Detroit has a half-game lead on Seattle). They need to recover quickly from an embarrassing performance against Houston, which ended with the Mariners scratching out seven hits in 2-1 and 5-2 losses.

With those defeats, the Mariners fell below .500 at home with a 37-38 record. The Mariners have six home dates remaining, the three vs. Oakland and three to end the season against the Angels.

Since the adoption of the wild card round in 1995, no team has reached the postseason with a losing record at home. Following are the wild card teams that had the worst home marks with Seattle shown for comparison purposes:

Year Team Division Won Lost Pct. Playoffs
2014 Mariners AL West 37 38 .493 To be determined
1996 Orioles AL East 43 38 .531 Lost ALCS to NYY 4-1
2011 Cardinals NL Central 45 36 .556 Won WS over Tex 4-3
2006 Tigers AL Central 46 35 .568 Lost WS to StL 4-1
1996 Dodgers NL Central 47 34 .580 Lost NLDS to Atl 3-0
2000 Mariners AL West 47 34 .580 Lost ALCS to NYY 4-2
2011 Rays AL East 47 34 .580 Lost ALDS to Tex 3-1
2012 Orioles AL East 47 34 .580 Lost ALDS to NYY 3-2

The Mariners won nine of 16 games from the A’s this season, but also lost three times at Safeco Field. The series has been so close that Seattle holds only a one-run advantage over the 16,  52-51.

Rue the record

If the Mariners whiff their chance to reach the postseason, they can point to their season-long inability to win close games, especially contests decided by one run. Entering the Oakland series, the Mariners are 16-25 (.390) in one-run games, the worst percentage in the American League. The Mariners have also been blanked 16 times, the second-worst total in the AL behind Tampa Bay’s 17.

The Mariners will also rue their inexplicable record against teams with sub.-500 records, particularly the two also-rans in their own division, the Astros and Texas Rangers. The Mariners dropped 10 of 19 against Texas, last in the AL West, and have lost seven of the 16 so far (three remaining) against Houston, which will finish next-to-last.

While Seattle is 42-28 against clubs with winning records, including 14-14 head-to-head against division leaders, it is 37-38 against the losers, including 17-19 against clubs currently in last place.

So the Mariners have risen to the occasion, but also sank to it, especially within their own division, where they are 7-5 against the first-place Angels and 9-7 against second-place Oakland, but have a combined 17 losses to the Astros and Rangers. With 17 games remaining, here’s the Mariners record against opponents:

Winning Division Record Losing Division Record
Baltimore AL East 2-5 Tampa Bay AL East 4-3
N.Y. Yankees AL East 3-3 Boston AL East 5-1
Toronto AL East 3-0 Chicago AL Central 4-3
Kansas City AL Central 5-2 Minnesota AL Central 2-5
Detroit AL Central 4-2 Houston AL West 9-7
Cleveland AL Central 4-2 Texas AL West 9-10
LA Angels AL West 7-5 N.Y. Mets NL East 1-2
Oakland AL West 9-7 Philadelphia NL East 1-2
Washington NL East 1-2 San Diego NL West 2-2
Atlanta NL East 4-0
Total 42-28 Total 37-38

Rarity still possble

Hisashi Iwakuma did not pitch well Wednesday night against the Astros, allowing four earned runs in 4.1 innings with a pair of uncharacteristic walks. That’s the second time in four starts that Iwakuma has come up empty (2.1 innings at Boston Aug. 24).

With three starts remaining, Iwakuma (14-7, 3.11) still has a chance to finish the season with an incredibly quirky stat: more wins than walks. Iwakuma has won 14 games and walked 16 batters.

No pitcher who started at least 24 games has ended a season with more wins than walks since Carlos Silva for Minnesota in 2005. Before Silva did it, the feat had not been accomplished since 1994 when Bret Saberhagen finished a strike-shortened year with 14 wins and 13 walks.

If Iwakuma can win his last three without issuing a walk, he will join the following with more wins than walks in a season:

Year Pitcher Team Won Walks Skinny
1913 Christy Mathewson Giants 25 21 1.6 BB/9 over 17 seasons
1914 Christy Mathewson Giants 24 23 Inducted in HOF in 1936
1919 Slim Sallee Reds 21 20 Went 21-7 with 2.06 ERA
1994 Bret Saberhagen Mets 14 13 Season shortened by strike
2005 Carlos Silva Twins 9 9 5-18 for Seattle 2008-09

Minnesota’s Phil Hughes also has a chance to join the list. He has 15 wins and 15 walks. Hughes defeated Seattle 2-0 July 8 with eight strikeouts — and no walks.


  • jafabian

    The A’s seem to be having their own problems right now though I’ve always thought they’ve been playing over their heads. The M’s can I’ll afford to lose games they should be winning and they need to find a way to protect their house, as it were.

  • Joe Fan

    I still don’t buy that the M’s are mentally strong enough to win this series against the A’s and ultimately win a wild card spot. I hope they can do it but its hard to shake the pessimism.

  • K. Yoshida

    Well…the M’s have certainly gotten my attention in September for the first time in a long time and a couple of wins over the A’s would be great. It’s looking good, but the malaise that is the M’s fan base keeps popping up. Look at the poor attendance Wednesday night–just over 11,000. Add losing to the worst teams in baseball (I hate Texas) it’s not surprising. If they lose tonight (Friday) or lose this series, I wouldn’t be surprised to see attendance drop further. I hope not.