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Seattle's Jason Vargas To Start First Of Three-Game Series With Oakland

(Sports Network) - Second-year lefty Brett Anderson can pitch the Oakland Athletics a game closer to .500 and keep them an outside contender in the American League playoff race today, when the team hosts the Seattle Mariners for the first of three games at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

The Athletics come in after taking two of three from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim over the weekend, though they lost by a 7-4 score on Sunday. Bobby Abreu drove in three runs and scored three times to lead the Angels.

Jeff Larish hit a two-run double for Oakland, which has dropped five of seven. A's starter Vin Mazzaro (6-8) was rocked in 4 1/3 innings, giving up five runs on six hits as the right-hander lost his sixth straight decision.

The Athletics are now two games below .500 at 67-69 and sit eight games behind the Texas Rangers in the chase for AL's West Division title. The Rangers, who lost slugging outfielder Josh Hamilton to injury over the weekend, begin a four-game series today in Toronto.

Anderson, a 22-year-old from Midland, Texas, was 3-2 on the season after a 4-3 defeat of the Kansas City Royals on Aug. 4 in Oakland. He's 0-4 in five starts since, however, including a six-inning stint en route to a 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.

He's pitched at least six innings in four of those five starts, allowing 34 hits and 14 runs in 28 innings.

The slump began against the Mariners on Aug. 10 in Seattle, when Anderson allowed five hits and a run in seven innings of a 2-1 loss.

He is 2-2 in six home starts in 2010.

Seattle counters with 27-year-old southpaw Jason Vargas, who'll seek his first win since Aug. 14.

The former second-round pick of the Florida Marlins defeated the Cleveland Indians to improve to a career-best 9-5 that day, but has lost three subsequent starts against the Yankees, Minnesota and the Angels.

Vargas picked up his initial win of 2010 against the Athletics after tossing six innings and allowing five hits and two runs while walking none and striking out six in Seattle on April 14.

He's 2-0 in three career games against Oakland with a 1.69 earned run average in 10 2/3 innings.

Seattle comes in off a winning effort on Sunday, when Russell Branyan homered and drove in two runs to back eight scoreless innings by Felix Hernandez as the Mariners topped Cleveland, 3-0, at Safeco Field.

Oakland has won five of six meetings with the Mariners held at the Coliseum this year, as well as seven of 12 overall matchups between the teams in 2010.