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Jun 3, 2024 8:31 pm

Athletics aim to show further improvement vs. Mariners

mitch spence

The Oakland Athletics hope improved play of late results in more wins when they open a six-game homestand Tuesday night against the red-hot Seattle Mariners.

The A’s were outscored just 26-25 on a 2-4 trip to Tampa Bay and Atlanta last week, losing two one-run decisions to the Rays and a pair of two-runners to the Braves.

A pitching staff that had been torched for 17 runs in three games by the Mariners on the club’s previous trip held up well against the traditional playoff teams, with the A’s giving up four or fewer runs in four of the six games.

One of the impressive starts was turned in by right-hander Mitch Spence (4-2, 3.52 ERA), who went the first 5 1/3 innings of a 3-0 win over the Rays last Tuesday. He allowed just one hit and one walk to continue a stretch of three starts in which he’s given up just three runs in 13 innings.

The 26-year-old rookie, a native of Kirkland, Wash., contributed one shutout inning in a return to his home state last month during an 8-1 win over the Mariners. It’s his only career head-to-head meeting with Seattle.

The Mariners won the other two games of the series 8-1 and 8-4, with the series-opening romp triggering a stretch that has taken the Mariners to the top of the American League West. They have been at their season’s best of late, winning seven of eight, including a three-game home sweep of the Los Angeles Angels that ended with a 5-1 win Sunday.

Seattle now embarks on a six-game trip, with right-hander George Kirby (4-5, 4.08) getting the ball in the opener. The 26-year-old rebounded from consecutive subpar efforts with six strong innings, striking out eight, in a 2-1 home win over the Houston Astros last Wednesday.

He did not pitch in the earlier home series against the A’s.

Kirby, who has never lost to Oakland in six career starts (3-0, 4.19), could experience an unusual source of pressure this time around. He will be following in the footsteps of Bryan Woo, Bryce Miller and Luis Castillo, who became the first trio of starters in franchise history to throw shutout ball on consecutive days.

With Woo and Miller going six innings apiece before Castillo got through seven on Sunday, Kirby inherits a run of 19 straight scoreless innings among the starters.

“Every day when I come to the ballpark, I feel like we’re gonna win,” Mariners manager Scott Servais gushed Sunday. “Our starting pitching is gonna give us a chance. They’re gonna keep us in the game. Everyone in that room knows that we’re gonna have a chance to win every day.”

Kirby will be seeing an Oakland team playing better than the record would indicate, A’s manager Mark Kotsay assessed after Sunday’s 3-1 loss in Atlanta.

“We had a chance to win all six games. You really can’t ask for anything more than that,” he said of last week’s Southeastern tour. “In Tampa, a few plays go our way and we’re probably 4-2 at the worst. Overall, I know it’s a 2-4 road trip, but we were competitive and had a chance to win every game, and that’s our goal right now.”

A’s fans should get their first extended look at newcomer Miguel Andujar, who made his season debut with three hits in eight at-bats over two games on the last homestand. The outfielder then became a lineup regular on the just completed trip, where he went 10-for-25 (.400) with two homers and 10 RBIs.

He has never faced Kirby in his career.

–Field Level Media

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