Straight A’s

On Apr. 6, Gil Meche took the mound for Seattle in their first game against Oakland of the season. He threw 5.1 innings for the win, allowing just two runs, while Carl Everett hit a home run and every Seattle starter got at least one hit in the 6-2 win against the A’s.

Why is this seemingly non-descript game so worthy of note?

Because that game, played over four months ago, was the last time the Mariners beat the A’s.

In a streak that’s largely been overshadowed outside the Bay Area by the Dodgers’ blistering pace, the Oakland Athletics have reeled off an incredible 14 straight wins against the Mariners, a streak most recently extended by their 11-2 romp in Oakland last night. So this week, I thought I’d take a break from the analysis, take a step back, and just marvel at the A’s sheer dominance over the Mariners, a team that is 55-49 in games not played against Oakland. It’s not every day that you beat up a solid team so badly, much less a division rival.

So here are some fun facts and figures about the Oakland-Seattle season series to date.

  • The Walkmen: During the streak, the A’s have outscored the Mariners 90 to 39, out-hit them 148 to 111 and out-homered them 12 to 6. But the starkest difference has been in walks, where Oakland leads Seattle 65 to 26. That total includes games where Oakland out-walked Seattle 11-1 (Apr. 8 against Felix Hernandez), 9-2 (Aug. 5 against Joel Pineiro) and 10-1 (last night, again against Pineiro).
  • Total Domination: The Mariners did not lead at any point in the first 45 innings of the streak, until scoring one run in the top of the first inning on May 18. The A’s promptly scored three runs in the bottom half of the inning. The Mariners didn’t lead at the end of a full inning until the eighth game of the streak, taking a 1-0 lead after the first inning on June 14 in Oakland. The A’s responded in the second inning, scoring two to take the lead. All in all, of the 126 innings played during the streak, the Mariners led at the conclusion of only 8 of those innings.
  • Pitching and defense: In their last 14 games, the A’s have shut out the Mariners three times. The A’s have shut out all other teams a combined four times.
  • Rotation? More like a death spiral: Of the 14 losses, 13 were taken by the Mariners starting rotation. The A’s have beaten every single Mariners starting pitcher, including Pineiro a whopping five times, accounting for nearly half of his 11 losses. Of the 97 earned runs he’s given up all season, 28 have been scored by Oakland, accounting for 29% of his total in only 23.1 of his 137.2 innings (17%). Overall, Pineiro has a 10.80 ERA against Oakland, which he earned by giving up 43 hits and 13 walks in his five starts to go along with only nine strikeouts. Amazingly, his home runs allowed total is only one, which is kind of like the fantastic deck chair arrangement on the Titanic.

    Surprisingly, despite losing all three of his starts against Oakland, Jamie Moyer has fared the best out of the pitchers in Seattle’s rotation. Here is a list of Seattle’s current starters, along with their ERA splits against the A’s.

    PLAYER             ERA vs. A's    ERA OVERALL
    Jamie Moyer        5.09           4.40
    Joel Pineiro       10.80          6.34
    Jarrod Washburn    6.88           4.30
    Gil Meche          5.23           4.58
    Felix Hernandez    6.00           4.50

    The only reliever to take a loss during the streak was Rafael Soriano, who gave up Nick Swisher‘s go-ahead two-run home run in the eighth inning on Monday.

  • Picking on the Weak Kids: On the flip side, Joe Blanton has undoubtedly benefited the most from playing the Mariners. Four of his 13 wins are against the A’s rivals from the north, while he has a 1.55 ERA against them in 29 innings. If you took his stats against the Mariners out of his season line, his ERA would jump from a not-too-bad 4.53 to a horrid 5.25. Still, that only makes him the worst offender:
    PLAYER             ERA vs. M's    ERA OVERALL
    Barry Zito         1.80           3.83
    Joe Blanton        1.55           4.53
    Esteban Loaiza     6.75           5.97
    Dan Haren          1.93           3.58
    Kirk Saarloos      3.38           4.77
  • The Bright Side: Of course, it’s not all bad. Sure, every single hitter currently on the Mariners 25-man roster is hitting worse against the A’s than against other opponents, and every starting pitcher has pitched worse against the green and gold, but four relievers, J.J. Putz, Soriano, Jake Woods and Sean Green, have actually pitched better against the A’s.

With a run of games like that enjoyed by the A’s against the Mariners, it’d be easy to keep piling on. But the fact of the matter is that the A’s dominance of Seattle, including five wins in the past two weeks, has basically been the difference in the A’s season so far. Thanks to the Mariners, the Oakland A’s have quietly been the hottest team in the American League. On the morning of July 31, the A’s were a slim half game ahead of the Angels, with the Rangers and the Mariners well within striking distance at three and 3.5 games back, respectively. The A’s were set to play 12 of their next 15 games against the AL West, including six games against Seattle.

That day in Anaheim, Dan Haren pitched a complete game eight-hitter, allowing only one run, while Jay Payton hit a tie-breaking two-run home run in the seventh inning to lead Oakland to a 3-1 win, and the A’s haven’t looked back since. Oakland has gone on to win nine out of the 11 games in that stretch played so far, with the last game scheduled for later tonight. In just over two weeks, with the help of the Mariners, the A’s have extended their lead in the division from a half game to 5.5 games over Los Angeles and 6.5 games over Texas, and in the distance it’s possible to start hearing the faint sound of bells tolling for the Angels and Rangers’ seasons.

So if the A’s actually manage to make it to October? Well, then the Oakland faithful owe a tip of their Peet’s coffee to their friends in the Emerald City.

References & Resources
All splits were taken from Yahoo! Sports’ great player stats pages, while other information was gleaned from the box scores on the same site.

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