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Mariners desperate to avoid sweep in Oakland

Having failed to produce any late-night magic, the Seattle Mariners hope to get a jump on the American League wild-card competition when they take the field for an afternoon game on Thursday against the host Oakland Athletics.

With a chance to overtake the Tampa Bay Rays (82-67) for the AL’s second wild-card position while at the same time distancing themselves from the Baltimore Orioles (77-71) in their duel for the final postseason spot, the Mariners (81-67) haven’t done either, losing 4-1 and 2-1 in the first two games of the Oakland series.

On both occasions, the Rays had already lost earlier in the evening, so no damage was done, with Tampa Bay retaining a half-game lead. Meanwhile, the Orioles managed to gain a game simply by splitting a pair with the Detroit Tigers, also earlier in the evening, to inch within four games with 14 to play.

The Mariners have totaled just five hits in the series, though Wednesday they made a move they hope will help in the series finale and moving forward.

Jarred Kelenic, who has been mired in a season-long slump but who belted seven home runs in September and October last year, was promoted from Triple-A before the Wednesday game.

He saw no action in the Mariners’ loss, but manager Scott Servais made it clear that despite Kelenic’s .124 average, the former top prospect will get some opportunities to duplicate last year’s success.

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“The one thing that stood out for me last year in September for Jarred was he was totally focused on doing whatever helped us win the game that day,” Servais said. “That’s what happens in September. When Jarred is in that mode, like a lot of players, they play much better. They play freer, and hopefully that’s what we see from him.”

If Servais chooses to start the 23-year-old outfielder Thursday, it would be against A’s rookie right-hander Adrian Martinez (4-5, 5.77 ERA). The two have never met on a major league diamond, but both spent much of this season as rivals in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.

Martinez has faced the Mariners once this season, taking an 8-6 defeat at Seattle on June 30, when he was charged with seven runs in 4 2/3 innings. He served up homers to Julio Rodriguez and Dylan Moore in that contest.

Martinez hopes he can count upon the type of defense the A’s (55-94) flashed behind James Kaprielian and two relievers on Wednesday. Oakland got a brilliant running catch from second baseman Tony Kemp for the second out of the eighth inning, which brought pinch hitter Luis Torrens to the plate without anyone aboard in a 2-0 game.

Torrens then homered for Seattle’s only run.

“Tony’s been playing unbelievable baseball,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “The catch is a game-saver. If he doesn’t make that play, there’s a runner on base and a two-run homer ties it and we’re in a different ballgame.

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“Tony’s playing his best baseball right now. It’s fun to watch.”

In search of just their second win in seven games, the Mariners will counter with a rookie of their own, George Kirby (7-4, 2.98 ERA). The right-hander has lost just once since June 27, going 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA in 12 starts. The Mariners are 9-3 in those games.

The 24-year-old is 1-0 in three starts against the A’s this season, allowing five runs and striking out 24 in 18 innings.

Kemp has gone 3-for-8 in their head-to-head matchups.


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