Joel Pineiro looks like he’s ready for the responsibility.
Pineiro will try for his fourth straight win and help the Mariners avoid being swept when they conclude their interleague series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Mariners have suffered through a forgettable first half and last Sunday started looking ahead to next season as they traded Garcia and catcher Ben Davis to the Chicago White Sox for highly touted young catcher Miguel Olivo and two high-level prospects.
The move created a void at the top of the Seattle rotation, one that Pineiro thinks he can fill.
“I would like to take on that challenge and become known as the ace sometime in the future,” Pineiro said following a 4-3 home victory over Texas on Tuesday. “I feel I can be that guy.”
Pineiro looked the part against the AL West-leading Rangers, limiting them to two runs and five hits while striking out a season high-tying nine over seven innings.
The Puerto Rican right-hander, who won a career-high 16 games last season, is 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA over his last four starts. He has 23 strikeouts in his last 29 innings.
“I think we have a special guy here,” Mariners pitching coach Bryan Price said. “He’s a ‘stuff’ pitcher and a gutty kid who does all the little things.”
Pineiro will need to have his best stuff against the Cardinals, who have outscored the Mariners 19-3 in taking the first two games of this series, including an 8-1 win on Saturday.
The Cardinals have won nine straight interleague games and are 10-1 against the AL this year.
The Mariners, who got a homer and two hits from Randy Winn, have lost nine of 12.
St. Louis will send Jeff Suppan and his team-best 3.52 ERA to the mound on Sunday.
Suppan carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Monday, but wasn’t around to see Pittsburgh pull out a 2-1 win. Suppan allowed one run, two hits and seven strikeouts over eight innings. The 29-year-old right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA over his last eight starts.