A day off couldn't have come at a better time for an Oakland Athletics team that went on a tear for the last month to clinch its second consecutive AL West title while staying in the hunt for the league's best record.
Manager Bob Melvin hopes the extra rest helps reverse their fortunes against the Seattle Mariners, who host Friday night's series opener seeking to beat the A's for the fifth time in six tries.Oakland (94-65) lost the final two of a three-game set with Seattle, then went 23-8 from Aug. 23-Sept. 23 and clinched the West crown. The A's, though, fell 3-0 on Tuesday and 3-1 on Wednesday to conclude a three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels after averaging 9.8 runs during a five-game winning streak.Melvin cited fatigue after Oakland's trying stretch to secure the division title. The A's trail Boston, which ends its season with a three-game series against Baltimore, by two games for the AL's best record, and they have a one-game edge on Detroit for home-field advantage in a possible Division Series matchup."It felt like we were a little bit tired these last couple of days, playing 33 of 34 (days)," Melvin said. "Usually you don't want an off day when you're playing well, but I think (Thursday) could be a good time for one."Oakland has lost 10 of 16 meetings with the Mariners (70-89) this season while posting a 5.28 ERA in the last five against a team that ranks last in the AL with a .238 average."I think, record-wise, they've played us as tough as anybody," Melvin said. "It's been a team that's matched well against us, and we're going to have to play good to beat them. They've been a challenge for us."It might be even more difficult with Seattle sending Felix Hernandez (12-9, 2.99 ERA) to the mound Friday. He's won both of his starts while pitching 14 2/3 scoreless innings against Oakland this season, striking out eight in each outing.Hernandez was sidelined with a strained left oblique for nearly three weeks before giving up one run and striking out 10 in just four innings of Seattle's 3-2 win over the Angles on Sunday."We're going to keep a close eye," manager Eric Wedge said. "We could have sent him out one more inning, but that wouldn't have been the smart thing to do as far as I'm concerned."The right-hander needs to last 1 2/3 innings Friday to finish with his sixth straight season of at least 200."It's important to me," Hernandez said. "That's why they have me here, to pitch, right? Every year, I try to reach 200 or more."The Mariners have won three of four after beating Kansas City 6-0 on Wednesday, and they'll try to stay hot against Bartolo Colon, who has been on a roll of late.Colon (17-6, 2.64) has won his last three starts and has a 0.90 ERA over his past five after giving up five hits in six innings of an 11-0 victory over Minnesota last Friday.The 40-year-old right-hander is tied with Detroit's Anibal Sanchez for the AL's best ERA and is tied for second in the league in wins with the Angels' C.J. Wilson."He's been talking about getting his second wind," Melvin said. "We're seeing the movement and the velocity coming back."Colon is 3-0 with a 1.76 ERA in his last four starts against the Mariners, giving up three runs in eight innings of a 6-3 victory the last time he faced them June 21.