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Sun, Sep 30, 2012 - 4:05 PM ET
 

Mariners-Athletics Preview

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Sitting atop the AL wild-card standings, the Oakland Athletics aren't showing any signs of letting up.

As they continue to surge toward their first playoff berth in six seasons, the Athletics aim for a three-game sweep of the visiting Seattle Mariners on Sunday.

After taking Friday's series opener 8-2, Oakland (90-68) found itself on the verge of defeat before pulling out a 7-4, extra-inning win Saturday. Josh Donaldson hit a game-tying two-run homer in the ninth before Brandon Moss' three-run shot in the 10th moved the A's to within 2 1/2 games of West-leading Texas.

"Our mind is still focused on trying to go after the division," Donaldson said. "Every game out there is the biggest game of the year for us. That's the way it's been for the last month."

Saturday's victory gave Oakland its first 90-win season since 2006, when it made its most recent postseason appearance. While the A's, who host the Rangers in their final series of the season, still have a chance to catch Texas, they appear much more likely to grab a wild-card berth.

Winner of four of five overall and 14 of 19 at home, Oakland is 2 1/2 games ahead of Los Angeles and three in front of Tampa Bay for the AL's second wild-card spot.

If the Angels, who play a doubleheader at Texas after Saturday's contest was rained out, get swept on Sunday and Tampa Bay loses at Chicago, Oakland will clinch a playoff spot.

The A's have to be feeling good about giving the ball to Tommy Milone (13-10, 3.74 ERA), who's gone 4-1 with a 2.70 ERA over his last seven starts. The left-hander gave up two unearned runs and six hits over six innings Tuesday in a 3-2, 10-inning win at Texas.

Milone should have a good chance to build on that outing against the Mariners (73-85). He yielded two runs and struck out a career best-tying 10 over six innings of a 4-2 win at Seattle on Sept. 9, improving to 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his last three starts in this series.

Dustin Ackley and Casper Wells are both 1 for 8 against Milone while Justin Smoak is 0 for 8. Jesus Montero, though, is 5 for 9 with a homer.

While Milone went 5-1 with a 0.91 ERA over his first eight home starts, he's since struggled by the Bay, going 2-3 with a 5.77 ERA over his last six. He's also had a rough time in day games, posting a 5.23 ERA - more than two runs higher than his 3.14 mark at night.

Taking the mound for Seattle is fellow rookie Erasmo Ramirez (1-3, 3.42). The right-hander had gone 1-0 while compiling a 2.40 ERA over his previous two starts before giving up five runs - three earned - and seven hits over six innings in Tuesday's 5-4 loss at Los Angeles.

"That's baseball," Ramirez told the team's official website. "They hit some balls in the right spots and I just tried to continue pitching and keep the game close. ... I tried my best and now I'll just wait for the next start."

The 22-year-old was lights-out in his only start against the A's, allowing one run, three hits and striking out a career-best 10 opposite Milone in a 1-0 loss June 25.

Ramirez will need to be wary of Moss, who's batting .405 with three homers, 11 runs scored and eight RBIs in his last 10 games.

Losers of nine of 12, the Mariners went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position Saturday. They've gone 7 for 79 (.089) in such situations over their last 10 games.

Tagged: Athletics, Mariners

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