Athletics-Mariners Preview

Jesse Chavez may be the forgotten man in an Oakland Athletics rotation that features two of the AL’s top 10 ERA leaders and two key midseason acquisitions.

Though Chavez may be under the radar, that likely won’t be the case much longer if he continues delivering strong performances.

The right-hander looks to help Oakland bounce back from a loss in the series opener as he faces a sputtering Seattle Mariners offense Saturday night at Safeco Field.

Oakland (58-35) has the best record in baseball thanks in large part to its major league-leading 3.08 ERA. Scott Kazmir and Sonny Gray have received plenty of praise for their sub-3.00 ERAs, and general manager Billy Beane made a splash July 4 by trading three prospects to the Chicago Cubs for All-Star Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.

Chavez (7-5, 3.06 ERA) has been solid in his own right, though. After a rare stretch in which he allowed nine runs and 14 hits while walking seven in 10 innings over his previous two starts, Chavez struck out a career high-tying nine in six innings of Monday’s 5-0 win over San Francisco.

"Chavy was lights-out," said Josh Donaldson, one of Oakland’s seven All-Stars. "Quality start after quality start, it seems like, and he was just dominating (Monday)."

Chavez, who made just two starts in 191 appearances prior to this season, has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 12 of his 18 starts. He gave up two runs – one earned – in six innings of Oakland’s 3-2, 12-inning win over the Mariners on April 3, but he allowed four runs in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-3 defeat May 6.

Chavez again looks to stymie Seattle’s offense, which has scored just 12 runs during a 3-5 stretch. The Mariners (50-43) got just enough production Friday, as Robinson Cano’s go-ahead double in the sixth gave them a 3-2 victory to snap a three-game skid.

Cano had two of Seattle’s five hits and has been one of its few offensive bright spots lately, hitting .417 over his last 12. He’s batting .349 while recording at least one hit in all 11 games against the A’s this season.

The Mariners seek their fifth victory in the last six meetings with Oakland as they send Hisashi Iwakuma to the mound.

Iwakuma (7-4, 3.07) was solid in each of his last two starts, giving up one run in six innings of a 13-2 win at Houston on July 1 before striking out a season-best 10 in seven innings of Monday’s 2-0 victory over Minnesota.

The right-hander said he’s feeling healthier now after starting the season on the disabled list with a torn tendon in his finger and dealing with neck soreness last month.

”My body, physically, I’m feeling really good right now,” Iwakuma said. ”Just keeping the ball down and moving to both sides of the plate has helped me a lot.”

Iwakuma is 3-3 with a 4.54 ERA in six starts against the A’s, who have dropped two of three following a six-game winning streak. Stephen Vogt homered and Jed Lowrie had an RBI single in the first Friday, but Oakland had only three hits over the final eight innings.

It’s unclear if first baseman Alberto Callaspo will be available in this contest after leaving in the second inning Friday with a strained right hamstring. Coco Crisp was scratched with a sore neck, and manager Bob Melvin isn’t sure if he’ll play in the series.