The first team in the American League to reach 50 defeats on the season, the Seattle Mariners attempt to snap a three-game slide tonight as they play the second of a three-game set against the Oakland Athletics at the Coliseum.
Losers of four of their last five and now 15 1/2 games out of contention in the AL West, the Mariners are the second-weakest hitting team in the league at .230 through 85 games. Their only saving grace is that the worst hitting club is their competition for the weekend, the A's with a collective average of just .225.
Unfortunately for Seattle, the A's figured out how to generate just enough offense to get by in the series opener last night, using a three-run home run by Chris Carter in the bottom of the 11th inning to earn a 4-1 victory. Not only did the home team pick up the late victory, the A's ran their win streak to five straight, matching their longest run of the season thus far.
Oakland, which is eight games out of first in the AL West, has been sparked by Carter since his call-up last week, the second-year player having delivered three homes runs and knocked in five in just four games. Jemile Weeks, Josh Reddick and Seth Smith each tallied a pair of hits for the home team as well.
"It feels great," Carter said of his game winner. "It's my first walk-off hit, first walk-off home run here in the Majors, and I haven't done it in a while. It's just awesome."
Tom Milone started the game for the A's, working through seven innings as he gave up one runs on six hits and struck out nine. Reliever Jordan Norberto was credited with the victory, his first of 2012, as he fanned all three batters he faced in the final inning.
Seattle sent a total of seven pitchers into the game, beginning with Kevin Millwood who held the opposition scoreless through seven innings during which he gave up three hits and a couple walks and struck out seven. Oliver Perez was saddled with his first loss of the season as he gave up the late home run to Carter in a pinch-hitting role.
Winless in his last five outings, Jason Vargas tries to put his best foot forward for the Mariners when he takes the hill against Oakland tonight.
The left-hander is an even 7-7 on the campaign, but just over a month ago he was three games over .500. Since then he's dropped three straight decisions and failed to record a decision in his most recent two outings.
Last Sunday he made it through eight innings against Boston, allowing just a single run on five hits and a couple of walks, while fanning six, but he and the Mariners still suffered the 2-1 setback at home.
Vargas clashed with this same Oakland squad back on June 26, but again he failed to pick up the win even as the team secured a 3-2 victory behind his performance which saw him strike out 10 in 6 2/3 innings. For his career, Vargas is an even 4-4 with a 3.55 ERA in 12 appearances against the A's.
For the hosts, Jarrod Parker is aiming for his fourth win in as many decisions. The Indiana native has reeled off four wins in his last five decisions overall and is now 5-3 on the campaign, his first in the American League.
For the third straight game Parker allowed just a single run as he clashed with Boston on Monday at home. The right-hander surrendered six hits and issued three walks, while striking out three over 6 2/3 innings of a 6-1 win.
On June 27 Parker saw his first action ever against Seattle, working his way through seven innings, allowing just the one run on three hits and four walks, fanning nine batters along the way.
Oakland may be the worst-hitting team in baseball, but thanks to a pitching staff that is tops in the AL with a combined 3.39 ERA, all is not completely lost for the squad with the second half of the season ready to begin next week.