Scott Kazmir and Chris Young, two former All-Star pitchers who have come back from difficult arm problems, square off on Monday at O.co Coliseum as the A's and Mariners open a four-game series.
The two American League West rivals will play four times in three days, with a Wednesday doubleheader to make up for a game postponed on April 4 due to unplayable field conditions in Oakland.
Kazmir takes the ball for the A's in the opener and has been outstanding in his first season with Oakland, going 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in six starts with an American League-leading 0.939 WHIP.
The 30-year-old lefty, an All-Star with the Rays in 2006 and '08, pitched just one game in the Majors in 2011 and none in 2012 while dealing with arm problems. But he went 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA in 29 starts for the Indians last year before signing a two-year, $24 million deal with the A's.
Kazmir has never before started a season 5-0. Going back even further, to Sept. 21, 2013, the southpaw is 6-0 with a 1.75 ERA and .207 opponents' average over his last eight starts.
In his most recent outing against the Rangers, Kazmir labored and lasted just five innings, his shortest stint of the year. But he came out with the win after allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk with four strikeouts.
"If that was a bad game for him," said A's manager Bob Melvin, "then we'll take it."
One of Kazmir's best starts came in a no-decision against the Mariners on April 13 at Safeco Field, when he threw six scoreless innings with two hits, no walks and nine strikeouts in a 3-0 victory. He's 4-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 12 career starts against Seattle.
Young has a similar track record as a 2007 National League All-Star with the Padres who then ran into significant shoulder issues before undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He pitched in the Minors last year for the Nationals and then signed a one-year deal with Seattle just prior to the start of the season.
The 6-foot-10 right-hander has had good success in two meetings already with the A's this year, once in relief and once in his first start of the season, throwing eight scoreless innings with four hits over the two appearances.
Young had his initial start with the Mariners wiped out when the April 4 game in Oakland was postponed following a heavy rain overnight without a tarp on the infield. So he went into the bullpen for long-relief duties and was called on the next day and pitched two hitless frames with two walks.
A week later, Young finally made his first start and threw six shutout innings with four hits while taking a no-decision in a game the Mariners wound up losing, 3-0.
The big right-hander finally got his first win since 2012 last Tuesday in New York while allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits over 5 2/3 innings in a 6-3 win over the Yankees. Young insisted it was a bigger deal for the Mariners to come out with a big road victory in a two-game sweep in the Bronx than to record his first victory in 604 days.
"I pitched well enough to win. That's the goal," Young said. "If the team wins, I'm happy. If you lose 1-0, you're upset with the pitch you made that didn't get it done. I made enough quality pitches that gave the team a chance and the guys picked me up."
Young doesn't have a blazing fastball, but relies on command and his high angle to create problems for opposing hitters. Seattle catcher Mike Zunino said he's been improving with each outing.
"I think he's getting a better feel for all his breaking pitches," Zunino said. "He has such good command, up and down in the zone, which is a little uncharacteristic of some guys. But he works so well up and down and keeps hitters' eye level moving."
A's: Pomeranz could be stretched out to start
In need of a second starter for Wednesday's doubleheader, the A's may look no further than their own bullpen.
Always considered an option to start, lefty Drew Pomeranz -- sporting a 1.98 ERA through 13 2/3 innings -- could be the answer. Triple-A starters Josh Lindblom and Arnold Leon are also under consideration.
"Anything's possible in that scenario right now," said Melvin. "I'm not ruling that out.
"[Pomeranz] has been a guy that has been a starter, and from what we've seen of him in spring and early this season suggests he could have success, so whether that's in a long role in the bullpen or the need is there for a starter, I think we've got him to a pitch count that would suggest, if that need came up, then he would be one of the guys we would potentially look at for that role."
Mariners: McClendon leaning more on Leone
Even after rookie reliever Dominic Leone gave up a two-run homer, a walk and a single to the three batters he faced in Saturday's 9-8 win at Houston, manager Lloyd McClendon said he's comfortable putting the hard-throwing right-hander into tough late-inning situations.
"I think he's earned those type of situations and you'll probably see him in more high-leverage situations," said McClendon, who has been interchanging his setup opportunities between Tom Wilhelmsen, [Yoervis] Medina and [Dominic] Leone when going to a right-hander. "Most of the time we look at matchups and see if there is some history there. With him, there's obviously no history there, but I know what he's got and what he's capable of doing."
Leone was called up on April 6 to replace Hector Noesi and has posted a 2.13 ERA in 10 outings even with Saturday's implosion.
• Felix Hernandez will pitch in Wednesday's doubleheader for the Mariners, but McClendon hasn't said which game his ace will start. The Mariners haven't announced their other Wednesday starter, though it's likely it will be right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, who has made two Minor League starts since being sent down on April 23.
• The A's have beaten Seattle four out of six meetings this season after losing last year's season series, 11-8, to their division rivals.