(Sports Network) - Even though both teams are well out of the playoff race, the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners each have goals to strive for as they begin a four-game season-ending series tonight from Safeco Field.
Oakland has an opportunity to end a stretch of three straight losing campaigns and end the year at .500, though the club will need to sweep this set in order to reach that mark, and can still finish second in the American League West for the first time since claiming a division title in 2006. The Athletics are currently one game behind the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who moved ahead in the standings with Wednesday's extra-inning triumph over Oakland.
The A's immediate objective, however, is to stop a season-high six-game losing streak that was extended with yesterday's 2-1 setback, in which Torii Hunter's two-out single in the bottom of the 11th lifted the Angels to victory.
Oakland's Brad Ziegler (3-7) was able to escape a bases-loaded jam in the 10th, but the reliever issued a pair of singles to put runners at first and second during the following inning before Hunter laced a line drive through the infield to bring home the deciding run.
Bobby Cramer, an Anaheim native making his fourth career major league start, pitched the first 6 2/3 innings for the Athletics and yielded just one run and three hits while striking out four.
"Bobby battled," said Oakland manger Bob Geren. "He went deep into the game. He was very impressive. [Wednesday] we had a lack of offense, but great pitching."
Rajai Davis finished 2-for-5 for the A's and knocked in the team's only run with a fifth-inning double.
Seattle returns home seeking to avoid reaching the 100-loss mark for the second time in three years. The Mariners had strung together three straight wins, however, including two on the road against AL West champion Texas, before falling to 61-97 overall with yesterday's 6-5 setback to the Rangers.
The Mariners were in position to sweep the three-game set after owning a 5-1 lead after six innings, but Texas scored once in the seventh and three more times in the eighth to tie the contest. The Rangers later prevailed by scratching home a run on what would have been an inning-ending strikeout in the bottom of the ninth.
After walking Mitch Moreland with two outs in the ninth, Seattle reliever Dan Cortes got pinch-hitter Nelson Cruz to swing and miss for the supposed final out, only the pitch got away from catcher Quillermo Quiroz.
Quiroz's throw to first base sailed past teammate Justin Smoak and into the outfield, with Moreland able to beat right fielder Ichiro Suzuki's throw to the plate for the winning run.
"I can't remember ever losing a ballgame that way, but I just saw it," manager Daren Brown told the Mariners' website afterward. "A strikeout with a runner on first, and the guy ends up scoring. It was obviously a tough loss."
The defeat spoiled a terrific effort for Seattle starter Jason Vargas, who yielded just one unearned run and five hits over the first six innings and left with a seemingly-comfortable lead.
Smoak, acquired from the Rangers in the trade that sent ace pitcher Cliff Lee to Texas back in July, homered for a third straight game by belting a two-run shot in the first inning. Franklin Gutierrez added a two-RBI double later on for the Mariners.
Seattle will attempt to bounce back in tonight's encounter with Oakland's Gio Gonzalez, who'll be taking another shot at trying to nab his 14th victory of the season.
4 game series vs Mariners @ SAFECO Field
Thursday, Sep 30, 2010, 7:10 PM PDT
Gio Gonzalez vs Doug Fister
Clear. Winds blowing in from left field at 5-10 m.p.h. Game time temperature around 75.
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