A’s hope to stop Leake when facing Mariners

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Seattle Mariners will hope veteran right-hander Mike Leake continues his fine pitching against the Oakland Athletics when the two American League wild-card hopefuls meet for a second consecutive day on Friday night.

The third-place Mariners (75-59) gained a game on the A’s (80-55) in the series opener when Wade LeBlanc rode a five-run first inning to a 7-1 victory that inched Seattle within 4 1/2 games in the battle for second place both in the AL West and AL wild-card race.

The A’s not only lost a game to the Mariners but failed to gain ground in their pursuit of first place in the West and the top spot in the wild-card race after Houston (82-52) and the New York Yankees (84-50) had lost earlier in the evening.

Oakland will take the field Friday still 2 1/2 games behind the Astros and 4 1/2 back of the Yankees.

Both the A’s and Mariners took the field for the series opener coming off losses, with the Mariners having dropped three in a row, including two straight at San Diego, while the A’s were only a little more than 24 hours removed from an emotional walk-off loss at Houston.

A’s manager Bob Melvin noted after Thursday’s loss that Wednesday’s defeat in Houston — in fact, the entire three games against the Astros during which Oakland suffered two close setbacks — played a role in the club’s opener of a nine-game homestand.

“That last series took a lot out of us,” Melvin said. “That’s no excuse, but I saw a little (fatigue) today. Just one of those tough nights.”

Leake (8-8, 4.03 ERA) has faced the A’s three times this season, with the Mariners winning all three, 7-4, 3-2 and 2-0. He did not get a decision in any of the wins despite allowing a total of just five runs and 15 hits in 20 2/3 innings.

The 30-year-old has a 1-1 record and 2.50 ERA in six career starts against the A’s.

Leake has been especially tough this season on A’s All-Star Jed Lowrie, holding him hitless in nine at-bats with two strikeouts.

Oakland will pitch a veteran right-hander of its own, Mike Fiers (10-6, 3.15), who will be looking to remain unbeaten for the A’s in a fifth consecutive start since being acquired from Detroit.

Fiers pitched Oakland to a 3-2 win at Seattle earlier this month, allowing two runs and six hits in six innings.

It raised the 33-year-old’s lifetime record in seven starts against the Mariners to 2-1 with a 5.66 ERA, marks that include a 7-2 loss in May as a member of the Tigers.

Jean Segura and Ben Gamel both homered off Fiers in that game.

Segura was scratched from Thursday’s starting lineup because of a bruised left shin suffered when he fouled a pitch off his leg Wednesday in San Diego. He is expected to return sometime during the remainder of the series.

Robinson Cano has been tough on Fiers in the past, going 5-for-14 (.357) with a double and two home runs.