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Originally published September 8, 2012 at 10:37 PM | Page modified September 9, 2012 at 4:21 PM

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Mariners fall to A's as George Kottaras delivers another blow

Hisashi Iwakuma allowed five runs in under four innings as Seattle fell to 3-5 on its current homestand.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Mariners are at the onset of the "spoiler" stage of their season, though no one is ready to use that exact term yet.

Of their final 24 games, all but three are against teams with playoff aspirations, starting with the first two games of their current series with Oakland at Safeco Field.

So far, however, the Mariners haven't spoiled much, except Eric Wedge's evening. The manager was clearly not happy after the Mariners fell 6-1 to the A's on Saturday, with Hisashi Iwakuma getting knocked out in the fourth inning. That followed an uncharacteristically poor outing by Felix Hernandez in a carbon-copy defeat by the same score on Friday.

"This is what September is all about," Wedge said. "Everybody's at the top of their game, especially the ones that are in the hunt. We're going to have to do much better to win a game tomorrow."

The Mariners began their current homestand riding an eight-game winning streak at Safeco Field, but they fell to 3-5 on the current stand with one game to play before they hit the road.

The main catalyst for Oakland, once again, was backup catcher George Kottaras. He hit a three-run homer off Hernandez in the fourth inning on Friday, and a two-run homer in the A's four-run fourth on Saturday that chased Iwakuma.

"It happened quickly — tonight's game was similar to last night's," Wedge said. "Disappointing, to say the least. Oakland's a good ballclub. They've been the best ballclub in the second half. We're going to have to come out better to beat them. It's as simple as that."

The Mariners could summon no such power against Oakland starter Brett Anderson, making his fourth start of the season after returning from a long layoff caused by Tommy John surgery.

Anderson looks even stronger than he was before the injury, which is saying something since the lefty was a rising star. Anderson gave up one run — unearned — in six innings — and his record rose to 4-0 while his earned-run average fell to 0.69. He could be a vital cog down the stretch for the A's, who lead the American League wild-card race.

They are 17-5 in their last 22 games and continue to be the most surprising team in the American League, with apologies to the Baltimore Orioles.

"I mean no disrespect when I say it, but on paper it's not the most intimidating team," Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan said. "They've got some things working, and it's an even bigger tip of the hat they're getting it done without — no disrespect again — without marquee names and all that stuff. That's just good baseball, and they're finding ways to get it done."

That's something the Mariners aren't doing at the moment. They left nine runners on base, and six of their seven hits were singles.

"I felt we swung the bats OK," Wedge said. "They're up there competing, but we're just not getting the production we need. We're just not finishing things off. That's been one of our biggest issues this year offensively, finishing innings off and taking advantage of opportunities."

Ryan said he prefers not to use the word "spoiler" but says the Mariners relish the chance to play teams like the Rangers, Angels, Orioles and A's down the stretch.

"I don't like that word. Not 'til it's over," he said. "Crazy things happen. I'm not trying to get ridiculous or anything like that, but it's not over 'til it's over. Our competition level should still be high, and everyone should still be hungry and trying to win games."

Iwakuma, who had been 5-1 with a 1.57 ERA in his last seven starts, gave up six hits and five runs (four earned) in 3-2/3 innings.

"He flattened out that one inning, left some pitches up over," Wedge said. "He made a couple of pitches he probably shouldn't have, pitch selection-wise."

One of the few bright spots for the Mariners was the performance of Carter Capps and Shawn Kelley, who combined for 4-1/3 scoreless innings. Stephen Pryor gave up a run in the ninth to end the bullpen's streak of 17 consecutive scoreless innings.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com.

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