Mariners look to dispatch A's, continue closing AL West gap

Tue Sep 19 3:44am ET
Field Level Media

Having caught the Texas Rangers in their duel for second place in the American League West, the Seattle Mariners can now set their sights on the front-running Houston Astros when they continue a three-game road series against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.

Getting nothing but good news in their scoreboard-watching during their Monday game, the Mariners (82-68) took advantage of losses by the Rangers (82-68) and Astros (84-67) to catch the former and move within 1 1/2 games of the latter with a 5-0 win over the A's in their series opener.

The loss was Oakland's fifth straight, a stretch in which the Athletics have managed just eight runs. Now the A's (46-104) must go up against Mariners right-hander Luis Castillo (13-7, 3.08 ERA), who is unbeaten in last 11 starts, going 7-0 with a 3.26 ERA. Seattle has gone 9-2 in those games.

Castillo's 31st start of the season will be his second against the A's. He pitched six shutout innings in an 11-2 home win over Oakland on May 22, improving his career numbers to 2-2 with a 3.74 ERA in four lifetime starts against Oakland.

Rookie Esteury Ruiz didn't start the Monday game for the A's, but that didn't stop him from achieving a piece of franchise history.

He entered the game as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning and lined out to left field. Ruiz stayed in the game and got another at-bat, an eighth-inning single that he followed up with his 60th and 61st stolen bases of the season.

In doing so, he became the first Oakland player to reach 60 steals in a season since Rickey Henderson did it a final time in 1998.

"It's a great accomplishment," A's manager Mark Kotsay said. "The success he's had in his first (full) year in the big leagues. ... (The 60 steals) hasn't been done in a long time, and it was done last by a Hall of Famer."

In an attempt to play spoiler, the A's have scheduled right-hander Paul Blackburn (4-5, 4.14 ERA) for the rematch. He has pitched no more than five innings in any of his three September starts, going 1-1 with a 5.73 ERA.

The 29-year-old has not faced the Mariners this season. He has gone 2-3 with a 5.09 ERA in seven career starts against Seattle.

Blackburn will see a Mariners squad that put up five runs in the series opener while getting almost nothing from two of its hottest hitters -- Julio Rodriguez (0-for-4) and Teoscar Hernandez (1-for-5).

Hernandez's hit, a ninth-inning single, wasn't a big one in terms of winning or losing the game. Nonetheless, it potentially started a new streak of consecutive games getting on base at least once after his 30-gamer -- the longest by a Mariner in seven years -- ended on Sunday.

"Because of what Julio has done -- which has been unbelievable -- Teo has kind of been in the shadows," Mariners coach Manny Acta said. "But he's been ridiculous -- ridiculous in a good way. It's just that not many people are noticing because of what Julio's doing."

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Tue Sep 19 9:40pm ET