6/16/2013 4:31 P.M. ET
Mariners seek strong finish against first-place A's
By Jeff Kirshman / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- A win in Sunday's series finale against the A's would mark the first time the Mariners have swept a series this season.
Sweeps are always preferred, Mariners manager Eric Wedge said, but a final win against a division leader is especially pertinent if Seattle has intentions of competing for a playoff spot this year.
"It does matter, most definitely," Wedge said. "I was talking about that on the drive in today. We need to take this one. At some point in time these guys need to start finishing things off. It most definitely matters, especially when you're trying to gain ground."
Oakland, one of baseball's hottest teams heading into the series with Seattle, hasn't suffered a sweep at home since April.
The A's (41-29) entered Friday's series opener on an 11-game win streak at home and owners of the best 26-game stretch in the Majors this year at 21-5. A win Sunday would put the Mariners (31-38) 8 1/2 games back of the first-place A's in the American League West.
Multiple closers deliver positive results early
OAKLAND -- Eric Wedge's closer-by-committee experiment has aided the Mariners to two straight wins, but it hasn't been flawless.
The Mariners' manager used three pitchers in the ninth inning the past two days. Although Charlie Furbush pitched a perfect eighth inning Saturday, he couldn't replicate that success in the ninth, allowing a leadoff hit to Coco Crisp before being replaced for Yoervis Medina.
Medina followed by throwing a wild pitch and walking the first batter he faced before retiring the next three batters, including a key strikeout of Brandon Moss for the second out of the inning.
"It's a totally different animal in the ninth inning," said Wedge, who turned to Oliver Perez on Friday night to close out the game for the first save of his career.
Wedge added that he was impressed with Medina's ability to pitch out of Saturday's jam and his ability to be effective against right- and left-handed batters.
Seattle's platoon situation at closer was prompted by the struggles of Tom Wilhelmsen, whose four blown saves since May 20 earned him a demotion from the role.
"It's more of a mental break," Wedge said. "Physically, it gets you away from the grind too, so it's kind of a double whammy on the positive side, as far as I'm concerned. He has the peace of mind knowing that there's not the anxiety of going into the ninth inning with a one-run lead, so he's not carrying that around with him. That's the biggest part of it.
"And he'll be all right. He'll be back out there in our closer's role and he'll be very successful in it."
Smoak close to rejoining Mariners; Guti progressing
OAKLAND -- Justin Smoak's push to return to the Mariners continues to progress.
One day after alluding to the possibility of Smoak joining the Mariners in Anaheim from a Triple-A rehab stint for the second half of the club's road trip starting Monday, manager Eric Wedge said his first baseman made strides Saturday toward making that a reality.
Franklin Gutierrez's return, meanwhile, is scheduled to take longer.
"Smoaky's doing really good and Gut is getting better. We'll touch base with him after the game today and decide if we'll bring him right away or give him some more time," Wedge said.
Smoak, who is recovering from a right oblique strain, went 1-for-4 with Triple-A Tacoma on Saturday in the Rainiers' 6-1 loss to Sacramento, while Gutierrez went 0-for-4 as the team's right fielder.
Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.