The Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners have both crumbled down the stretch in what have been equally disappointing seasons for each franchise.
Though these clubs still continue to exhibit bright spots, that’s likely of little consolation entering their meaningless penultimate game of the season Saturday night at Safeco Field.
Both teams have dropped 14 of 23 since Sept. 7, tying San Diego for the third-worst record in that span. The Athletics’ futility stretches even further back, as they’ve lost 31 of their last 47 to guarantee their worst finish since going 65-97 in 1997.
Oakland (67-93) had been particularly bad even more recently, dropping nine of 10 before Wednesday’s 8-7 road victory against the still-contending Los Angeles Angels, followed by Friday’s 4-2 series-opening win. Danny Valencia enjoyed a big night in the opener, going 3 for 4 with an eighth-inning go-ahead home run to push his already personal-best total to 17.
Valencia is enjoying a career year with an .864 OPS through 103 games, the second-most he’s played in seven big league seasons. He’s flown mostly under the radar, however, splitting time between Oakland and Toronto. The Blue Jays designated him for assignment after acquiring left fielder Ben Revere at the trade deadline, even though Valencia, who played primarily the same position for Toronto, had hit .296 in 58 games.
His 34 RBIs in 45 games are an A’s record for a player who has played in fewer than 50.
"It was unexpected coming here. But having said that, they gave me the opportunity to play every day," Valencia said. "They put me in the cleanup spot and I’ve been able to reward them for it.
"I’ve been playing the past few years waiting for this opportunity and finally it’s come. I’m happy to take advantage of it."
For the Mariners (75-85), Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a fifth-inning single. He’s playing this series despite the fact that he’ll undergo surgery Oct. 13 to repair a sports hernia after being bothered by the abdominal injury since July 22.
"It’s one of those injuries that athletes can play with, and can play well," team medical director Dr. Edward Khalfayan said. "He has been managing it very well.
"It is painful at times but he has been able to perform. It’s not doing any more damage by continuing to play."
Cano struggled earlier in the season with a .660 pre-All Star break OPS, though he owns a .922 mark since the Midsummer Classic.
"I love to play baseball. I played like this for the last two months," he said. "I love the game so much. I love to be out there."
These clubs will both send left-handers to the mound with Seattle giving the nod to Roenis Elias (5-8, 3.89 ERA). Elias has been sturdy of late, posting a 2.05 ERA in his last four starts.
Oakland’s Sean Nolin (1-2, 5.25) will look to stick around longer in his sixth start of the year after allowing five runs and seven hits over a season-low 2 1-3 innings in a 5-4 loss to San Francisco on Sunday. He lost a 3-2 decision to Seattle in his first start of the season Sept. 6, giving up three runs over six innings.
The Mariners rank eighth in the majors with a .265 average against lefties, while Oakland is 19th (.251).