Don’t overlook importance of this road trip for A’s

Checking in with you on a travel day for the A’s, who woke up today still tied for the wild card lead with Baltimore despite being swept by the Angels …

Everyone is pointing to an upcoming 10-game road trip that seems as if it will define whether the A’s are destined for the postseason. Indeed, it looks intimidating as it waits there on the schedule — three games at Detroit beginning Sept. 18, followed by three at Yankee Stadium and four at A.L. West-leading Texas. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. As things stand, this six-game swing through Seattle and Anaheim that begins Friday suddenly becomes just as crucial.

The A’s need to steady themselves as they come off that three-game shellacking from the Angels. So although the Mariners are the only team Oakland plays over the next 20 games that has a losing record, this weekend’s series holds some importance. Playing at Safeco Field is never a picnic for the A’s. The weather is usually chilly (especially at night), the ball doesn’t carry well, and offense just seems tough to come by. Plus, the Mariners are a much improved team over the first half.

The A’s have scored a total of 12 runs in six games at Safeco so far this season. That they’ve gone 3-3 in that stretch is impressive considering those numbers. Runs might be at a premium again this weekend. They face Felix Hernandez in Friday’s opener. He’s 13-5 with a 2.63 ERA lifetime against the A’s, yet they beat him in Seattle in April behind a fine effort from Bartolo Colon. On Saturday, Hisashi Iwakuma goes for Seattle. He’s got solid overall numbers (6-3, 3.14) but has faced Oakland just once this season in a 3 2/3-inning relief stint. Tough to tell what to expect that night. Lefty Jason Vargas awaits Sunday, and he is 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA in four starts against the A’s this season. It won’t be easy, but the flip side is that the A’s pitch well at Safeco too. They gave up just four runs total in their last series there, when they took two out of three despite scoring just five runs of their own.

You could make the case that the Angels are the scariest of all the teams chasing the A’s right now, considering how well they’re playing. You get the sense that Los Angeles woke up and realized it wasn’t acting like the playoff contender everyone expected it to be. Next week’s four-game series in Anaheim looms large, so the A’s need to play well in Seattle to set themselves up for those games. The A’s are 4-2 at Angel Stadium this season, so they can take some encouragement from that.

While that 10-game trek that awaits could be huge, the A’s need to position themselves for it by playing well now. It starts with this seven-game trip that begins Friday …

Joe Stiglich