August 13, 2016

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Seattle Mariners left-hander James Paxton is no stranger to a wild-card playoff race.

In 2014, he went 4-4 with a 3.19 ERA in the final two months of season as the Mariners fought for a spot in the playoffs. They finished 87-75, one game behind the Oakland A's, who captured the second wild-card berth in the American League.

Paxton is back in a playoff race this year for the second time in his career and he's savoring every minute.

"Absolutely," said Paxton, who will start Sunday in the series finale against Oakland. "Tons of fun. It's awesome being right there. We've been playing well the last few games here and hopefully we can keep that going and get on a roll."

The Mariners (74-68) won their fourth straight game Saturday, a 14-3 victory over Oakland, and will go for the series sweep Sunday.

Paxton beat the A's in a September matchup in 2014, and he's 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in two career starts against the A's. This will be his first start of 2016 against Oakland.

"Having success against a particular team kind of helps your confidence a little bit going in, knowing that you pitched well against a team in the past, but for me it's more about how you're feeling about your stuff going into the start," Paxton said.

Paxton is 0-1 with a 6.91 ERA in his past three starts since coming off the disabled list (left elbow contusion), but he struck out 17 and walked two during that stretch. In his previous four starts, he went 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA, 27 strikeouts and three walks.

"I feel good," Paxton said. "I feel good about how I'm throwing the ball. I feel like I threw the ball really well last game. Some unfortunate things happened. I made a couple mistakes. I feel good about where I'm at. So I'm looking forward to the game tomorrow."

In his past few starts, Paxton has had a problem with the nail on his left middle finger.

"Last year, it tore up completely and I was unable to pitch at the end of the season," Paxton said. "And it grew back, and a piece that was dead kind of fell off. All the pressure was going to one side of the nail because I only had half a nail. It started ripping up again, but we've kind of figured out a way to keep it down, and it should work a lot better now. It seems to be healing pretty well. It's better than it was for sure."

A's rookie right-hander Raul Alcantara, who had a rough major-league debut Monday against the Los Angeles Angels, will make his second career start. Alcantara gave up five runs and five hits in three innings in a 10-7 loss. He hit three batters in the first inning, tying the major-league record for most batters hit in an inning.

"I wasn't nervous," Alcantara said. "Right now for the second outing, we've been watching some video, stuff from the minor leagues, looking at some video of the batters we're going to face. I think the second outing's going to go a lot better for me."

Alcantara, who began the season at Double-A Midland, went 4-0 with a 1.18 ERA in eight starts for Triple-A Nashville. In 25 minor-league starts, he walked only 30 batters.

"There wasn't any control issue with him, and then you hit a couple guys in your first big-league outing, and it can probably get in (your head) a little bit," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He finished up with good stuff. He looked like he was starting to get a lot more comfortable, and I expect that to be the case tomorrow."

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