Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

Franklin takes the hill Wednesday (Getty Images)

Only four games now separate Seattle and Oakland in the American League West. The teams will face off for a short two-game series starting Wednesday at Safeco Field.

Safeco Field, Seattle, WA

Seattle: (60-39 overall, 27-20 home) 1st place: American League West
Oakland: (56-43, 20-27 away) 2nd place: AL West

Wednesday, July 23, 7:05 p.m. FSN
Seattle: Ryan Franklin (6-8 3.75 ERA)
Oakland: Barry Zito (8-7, 3.22)

Thursday, July 24, 7:05 p.m. FSN
Seattle: Gil Meche (10-6, 3.80)
Oakland: Mark Mulder (12-7, 3.21)

NEWS & NOTES
Oakland is 6-4 in its last 10 games and has picked up two games on Seattle during that span. The Mariners are 4-6 in their last 10...

Wednesday's starter for Oakland, Barry Zito, is 2-0 against Seattle on the season. Zito allowed just one run over six innings for the first win on April 2, then allowed two runs in 7.1 innings July 3 for his second...

How hard is it to hit in Safeco Field? Only two every-day starters in the Mariners' lineup are hitting over .300 in the home ballpark for the season - Ichiro Suzuki (.342) and Bret Boone (.302). Mike Cameron (.219), Jeff Cirillo (.185) and John Mabry (.074) have all struggled mightily...

In 15 at-bats in Safeco Field this season, Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez has more home runs than Seattle's Jeff Cirillo does in 119 ABs. Chavez is 7-15 at The Safe in 2003 with three homers and five RBI. Cirillo, meanwhile, has one homer and eight RBI at home.

WHO'S HOT?

Seattle:
Who's been the hottest Mariner since the All-Star break? None other than veteran catcher Dan Wilson, whose bat has been the brunt of jokes around Seattle for much of the season. Wilson is 6-14 with a homer and 5 RBI in his last five games...

Randy Winn has done his part to quiet talk of acquiring a left fielder by showing more power in his last six games.

The M's every-day left fielder is 7-23 since the All-Star break with two homers and four RBI...

Mark McLemore, who has struggled mightily all season from the plate, is finally starting to make consistent contact with the ball.

He has six hits in his last 20 at bats (.300) with two hard-hit doubles.

Oakland:

Only one every-day player in the A's lineup has batted over .300 over the past 30 days. That honor goes to 2002 American League MVP, Miguel Tejada. Miggy has hit .304 during that stretch, but it's come with only one home run. In other words, he's sacrificed his power for average, a tradeoff the A's lineup might not be able to make up for...

Eric Chavez, Oakland's third baseman with a sweet left-handed swing, has come on over the last month.

After a slow start, Chavez has rebounded with five homers and 14 RBI over the last 30 days.

WHO'S NOT?

Seattle:
Two of Seattle's coldest hitters currently are the most unlikely you'd expect to find - Bret Boone and Ichiro Suzuki.

Boone is 3-21 since the break with seven strikeouts. Ichiro is coming off his first 0-6 game on American soil, and has just four hits in his last 25 at bats...

Willie Bloomquist's star has faded since his big game two Sundays ago.

Starting in place of Jeff Cirillo at third base in recent games, Bloomquist has gone 3-23.

On the pitching side of things, the usually reliable Arthur Rhodes has had a very tough month on the mound.

The last week was no exception. He went 1-2 with an 11.57 ERA in 2.1 innings pitched...

The inconsistency of Freddy Garcia continues.

The tall righty is winless in July, and his troubles have only escalated lately. He's given up 13 earned runs in his last 7.1 innings.

Oakland:
After a torrid month of June, outfielder Eric Byrnes' production has fallen off immensely. He's just 19-99 in his last 30 games, dipping his average down to .287...

Scott Hatteburg, a former catcher at Washington State Univeristy, is mired in a month-long slump as well. He's 18-88 in his last 24 games.

Mark Mulder, who gets the start on Thursday against Seattle's Gil Meche, is coming off one of his worst outings of the season.

He gave up five earned runs in six innings at Minnesota on July 19, taking the loss.


Joe Kaiser is the publisher of InsidethePark.com. He can be reached at joe-kaiser@excite.com.

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