While the Oakland Athletics have already clinched the American League West title, they still have something to play for in the last few days of the regular season.
The A's will finish with a four-game series against the Seattle Mariners that begins Friday night in Oakland.
Oakland (34-22) is guaranteed a top-three seed in the expanded playoffs by virtue of winning the division title. They dropped from the second to third position, a half-game behind the Minnesota Twins, with a 5-1 loss Thursday night against the host Los Angeles Dodgers.
A's manager Bob Melvin will balance getting some rest for his players while also trying to build momentum for the playoffs.
"We'll play it day-to-day on what we feel like we need to do," Melvin said. "There are eight really good teams in the American League. I don't see going after a potentially better matchup. They're all going to be tough. I think it's just as much trying to create a winning atmosphere and making sure everybody has the proper rest."
The A's are 2-12 in playoff series since their last World Series championship in 1989. They dropped wild-card series in each of the previous two seasons.
"It's good to enter the postseason in a good rhythm," A's center fielder Ramon Laureano said. "I think the past two years, we haven't done that. We're just trying to get that winning culture going into the postseason."
The Mariners (25-31) entered their off day Thursday with a slim chance at both second place in the AL West and a wild-card berth. But victories by Houston and Toronto dashed those hopes and eliminated Seattle.
Still, few would have predicted the rebuilding Mariners would still be in the chase midway through the final week, even if it's just a 60-game, pandemic-shortened season.
"We've put some nice streaks together, and everybody got excited that we had a chance to make a run at the playoffs," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "Certainly we felt it. That's a good thing for players to go through that and experience that.
"But understanding where we are as an organization, in our plan and our development, it's really important these games are meaningful and players are getting better. That was the whole plan all year, to continue to get better, and I believe we have. ... I'm very happy with the way we've been playing."
The Mariners are scheduled to send left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (2-4, 5.93 ERA) to the mound Friday. Kikuchi is 0-2 with a 3.33 ERA in five career starts against Oakland. His best start of the year came Aug. 1 against the A's, when he pitched six scoreless innings and allowed only three hits while striking out a season-high nine. Kikuchi didn't get a decision in that game as Oakland rallied late for a 3-2 victory.
The A's will counter with right-hander Chris Bassitt (5-2), who is third in the league with a 2.57 ERA. Bassitt is 1-4 with a 4.17 ERA in nine career appearances, including seven starts. But that one victory came earlier this season, on Aug. 2, when he allowed one run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings, with no walks and seven strikeouts in a 3-2 decision.
--Field Level Media