(1090 The Fan) — The Seattle Mariners (73-62) salvaged Game 3 of their weekend series versus the Washington Nationals — thanks to more offense from Dustin Ackley — and now begin the final month of the season with a half-game deficit in the race for the No. 2 Wild Card.

The M’s have dropped four of six since their sweep in Boston but they’re in Oakland for three to play an Athletics team that went 12-17 in August.

In other words, this series features two clubs not playing their best of late as the Angels lap them and begin to create an insurmountable pace.

Pitching Matchups | Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
Game 3: Wednesday, 12:35 PM PT @ Oakland — Felix Hernandez, RHP vs. Jon Lester, LHP
Hernandez has not been himself of late and was actually roughed up at home over the weekend by the Washington Nationals. The velocity and stuff remain, but the command has not been there and his sinker — perhaps his most important pitch — has not had the late sink it normally does.

It’s a big game for Seattle, a big start for King Felix and compounding the urgency is the recent struggles of Chris Young. The Mariners need Felix to be Felix.

Hernandez Splits (big-leagues):
LHB: .201/.244/.266, 2 HR
RHB: .204/.243/.360, 11 HR
Home: 2.26 ERA, 9 HR, .195 BAA
Road: 2.19 ERA, 4 HR, .210 BAA

Hernandez vs. A’s
Alberto Callaspo: 14-48 (.292), 2B, HR, 3 BB, 6 SO
Coco Crisp: 15-63 (.238), 2B, 4 BB, 13 SO
Josh Donaldson: 5-27, 2B, 2 BB, 8 SO
Adam Dunn: 3-12, 2 HR, 4 BB, 4 SO
Nate Freiman: 0-2, 2 SO
Sam Fuld: 2-10, 3 SO
Craig Gentry: 1-8, 2B, SO
Jonny Gomes: 3-14, 2 BB, 6 SO
Jed Lowrie: 8-31 (.258), 2B, HR, 8 SO
Brandon Moss: 9-33 (.273), 2-2B, 3B, HR, 12 SO
Derek Norris: 0-7, 2 BB, 5 SO
Nick Punto: 1-12, 3 BB, 3 SO
Josh Reddick: 5-33, 2B, 6 SO
Eric Sogard: 5-23, 2 BB, SO
Geovany Soto: 2-5, 3 SO
Stephen Vogt: 2-5, HR, BB

Scouting Jon Lester
Grades reflect 20-80 scouting scale; 80 is outstanding, among league’s best, 50 is major-league average, 20 is poor, not in line with big-league standards.
Four-seam Fastball (91-95 mph): 65
Sinker (91-93): 60
Cutter (86-89): 65
Curveball (74-77): 60
Changeup (84-86): 45
Control: 65
Command: 65

Lester Splits
LHB: .250/.297/.356, HR
RHB: .233/.276/.346, 11 HR
Home: 1.84 ERA, 2 HR, .224 BAA
Away: 3.36 ERA, 10 HR, .251 BAA

Lester vs. Mariners
Dustin Ackley: 2-7, SO
Robinson Cano: 17-69 (.246), 5-2B, 5 BB, 14 SO
Endy Chavez: 2-6
Chris Denorfia: 1-7, 2 SO
Austin Jackson: 7-18, 2B, 2 BB, 3 SO
Kendrys Morales: 0-4, BB, 2 SO
Kyle Seager: 2-10, HR
Justin Smoak: 5-13, 2-2B, 4 SO
Brad Miller: 1-3, SO
Mike Zunino: 2-2, BB
Humberto Quintero: 0-2
Corey Hart: 1-3, HR, BB, SO

Assuming Lloyd McClendon puts out his right-handed heavy lineup, Lester is going to throw a lot of cutters. It’s one of his best pitches, but righties cannot sit on because the southpaw will spot his four-seamer and backdoor his breaking ball and does so with consistency.

He will get ahead in counts so being patient with him isn’t likely to work. Lester has been significantly better from the stretch this season than in years past, but he’s also not allowing as many baserunners. Seattle will need to be aggressive on four-seamers early and take advantage of any cutters left over the plate.

Wild Card Contenders Schedule
Detroit Tigers (76-62): Justin Verlander, RHP vs. Cleveland Indians (70-66, 5 GB): Danny Salazar, RHP
New York Yankees (70-66, 5 GB): Hiroki Kuroda, RHP vs. Boston Red Sox: Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
Kansas City Royals (76-61): Jason Vargas, LHP vs. Texas Rangers: Nick Tepesch, RHP

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