Athletics-Mariners Preview

The Seattle Mariners had been in a bit of an offensive slump since busting out in their opening series, but they were able to put together a solid showing against the Oakland Athletics in the series opener.

Scoring runs against Sonny Gray might not be as easy.

Gray seeks his third straight strong outing as he leads Oakland into Saturday night’s matchup with Seattle.

The Mariners (6-3) plated 26 runs during their three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels to open the season, but they scored half that many while hitting just .175 over their next five.

Seattle had a much better showing Friday, as Dustin Ackley became its first player this season to have three hits in a 6-4 victory. Mike Zunino, the No. 9 hitter, had a two-run homer and Brad Miller added a solo shot two batters later in the sixth.

Zunino, Miller and Robinson Cano had two hits apiece.

Seattle got off to a decent start against Gray when they faced him Sunday, but he settled down to help Oakland earn a 6-3 victory.

Gray (1-0, 0.75 ERA) allowed three runs – one earned – in six frames, retiring 10 of the last 11 batters he faced. He also gave up five hits while striking out seven in six innings of Oakland’s 2-0 loss to Cleveland on March 31.

"He’s a battler," manager Bob Melvin said. "For a young guy, that’s something you don’t see often. It’s easy to kind of throw in the towel and say it’s not your day."

The 24-year-old right-hander improved to 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three starts against the Mariners, holding them to a .172 average while striking out 18 in 18 innings.

Erasmo Ramirez has opposed Gray in the last two outings, and he’ll be on the hill again for this contest.

Ramirez (1-1, 5.73) gave up five runs and seven hits – including a three-run homer to Brandon Moss – in four innings Sunday. It marked a letdown for Ramirez after he allowed two runs and struck out six in seven innings of an 8-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels on April 1.

"I was fighting trying to throw strikes," Ramirez said. "My strength is putting the ball in play, just throwing the ball in the strike zone and make the hitter swing the bat. I didn’t feel like the strike thrower I am."

Manager Lloyd McClendon is hoping the 23-year-old can bounce back.

"I think what we have to understand, particularly with young starters, they’re so hyped up with that first start, letting everything hang out, then he came back on regular rest and it was probably a bit much," McClendon said. "He wasn’t as sharp. I would suspect he’ll be better this next time out."

The right-hander is 0-3 with a 5.23 ERA in four starts and one relief appearance against the A’s, who had only six hits and scored all of their runs in the eighth inning Friday.

Oakland (6-4) had its four-game winning streak snapped that began with Gray’s win over the Mariners. Moss, Jed Lowrie and Yoenis Cespedes each drove in a run.

Coco Crisp struck out pinch-hitting to end the game after being left out of the starting lineup for the fourth straight contest due to a sore right wrist. There’s a chance he could be back in the lineup for this contest, though.