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Mariners hope to seal series win over A's

OAKLAND, Calif. -- A couple of hot-hitting young players will duel a hot young pitcher when the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics square off for the second time in their three-game series Tuesday night.

The Mariners (76-81) moved 3 1/2 games ahead of the A's (72-84) in their battle for last place in the American League West with a 7-1 victory on Monday night.

Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez reached the 2,500-innings milestone by throwing six strong innings in the win.

A Seattle win on Tuesday night would clinch no worse than a tie for fourth place in the West.

The Mariners will send left-hander James Paxton (12-5, 3.03 ERA) to the mound to face A's righty Daniel Mengden (2-1, 3.30).

Mengden will be seeking his third consecutive impressive effort since being promoted from Triple-A Nashville earlier this month.

The 24-year-old gave up three runs (two earned) in six innings during an 11-4 win over the Houston Astros in his first back at the major league level on Sept. 9. He then shut out the Philadelphia Phillies and Detroit Tigers over a combined 16 innings in his past two starts.

Mengden has not walked a batter while allowing just nine hits and striking out 11 in his past two outings.

If he is to continue his shutout string, he will have to keep Mariners right fielder Mitch Haniger and catcher Mike Zunino in the ballpark. They contributed three home runs to Monday's win.

Haniger belted his sixth and seventh homers of September, during which he is hitting .354 (34-for-96).

Zunino, meanwhile, got the Mariners rolling Monday night with a three-run shot in the second inning. The homer was his 24th of the season. It also was his 48th extra-base hit of the season, allowing him to pass Dan Wilson (47 in 1997) as the all-time franchise leader for a single season among catchers.

"It's good to see those guys finish strong," Mariners manager Scott Servais said of Haniger and Zunino, a pair of 26-year-olds. "They're playing with a lot of confidence right now. They're a big part of this organization."

Mendgen's goal Tuesday night: Avoid a performance like right-hander Daniel Gossett's in the series opener.

The Mariners belted four homers off Gossett in the easy win.

Paxton got a home run from Nelson Cruz in a 7-2 win over the A's on July 7. It ran his record to 3-0 with a 3.77 ERA against Oakland in five career starts.

The 28-year-old has struck out 30 in his 31 innings against the A's.

Paxton won't have to deal with the hottest Oakland hitter, first baseman Matt Olson, who strained his left hamstring on Sunday in the Athletics' win over the Texas Rangers.

Olson has homered in six of his past nine games.

A's manager Bob Melvin ruled his slugger out of the entire Seattle series, adding that Olson likely is done for the season.

"He's having a tough time moving around right now," Melvin said. "If I'm handicapping it, there's probably a tough chance for him to come back. Usually these things can be upward of a couple of weeks. Based on the fact that we only have six games left, it's going to be tough for him."

The A's finish with four games at Texas starting Thursday.

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