The Seattle Mariners may be ready to make a run at first place in baseball’s most wide-open division.
Looking to continue their best stretch since the All-Star break, the Mariners begin a three-game series Monday with the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park.
All three teams behind the first-place Oakland Athletics in the AL West are within striking distance, and Seattle (51-53) has been the best of the bunch over the last 10 games. The Mariners are 7-3 in that span after losing 11 of their previous 14, closing within two games of the A’s.
“All four teams are trying to grab it,” said Mariners manager Mike Hargrove. “I laugh when I hear people say no one wants it. It might be a case where everyone wants it too bad.”
If the Mariners can continue their solid play, they could have a chance to pass Oakland when they host the Athletics in a three-game series next weekend. Seattle’s deficit in the AL West reached as many as seven games in late May.
Gil Meche (9-5, 4.19 ERA) takes the mound for the Mariners with a chance to reach double digits in wins for the second straight season. The right-hander is coming off his worst start of the season, however, allowing seven runs and 10 hits in 4 1-3 innings in a 12-3 loss Tuesday to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Meche was 5-0 with a 2.35 ERA in his previous nine starts. He is 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts against the Orioles this season, and is 4-2 with a 3.17 ERA in 11 lifetime starts versus them.
Seattle concluded its weekend series with the Cleveland Indians with two straight wins. Jose Lopez and Raul Ibanez each had two-run, two-out ninth-inning singles Sunday to help the Mariners beat the Indians 7-3.
Lopez, who entered the game in an 0-for-15 slump, finished 3-for-5. The 22-year-old second baseman is third on the team with 58 RBIs in his first season as an everyday player.
“I looked at some film,” Lopez said. “I was moving my left foot up a little bit. I made a little change and it helped.”
Adrian Beltre had a sixth-inning double, giving him 32 extra-base hits in June and July after collecting only nine in April and May. The third baseman has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games.
Miguel Tejada, the subject of trade speculation as Monday’s deadline draws near, drove in two runs. The shortstop had seven RBIs in the series.
“It’s hard because, that is something I’m not really asking,” he said. “I really don’t have on my mind to go anywhere. … I can say I want to leave but that’s not what I got on my mind. I always say I want to stay here. I like it here.”
Playing in his second game since returning from a lengthy stay on the disabled list, Jay Gibbons went 4-for-4 with a homer and a walk. Gibbons is batting .288 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs in 50 games.
Adam Loewen (1-2, 6.50 ERA) will start for Baltimore after earning his first major league win Wednesday, giving up one run and seven hits while striking out five in five innings in a 4-3 win over the Kansas City Royals.
“He started getting his breaking ball over better than he has in the past,” Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. “He makes good pitches all the time. He just needs to be more consistent doing that.”
The left-hander’s first major league appearance was against Seattle. He surrendered one run, one hit and a walk while retiring one batter in a relief appearance of a 14-4 Orioles win May 23.
Seattle leads the season series 4-3. The Mariners took two of three games in Baltimore from April 28-30, and split a four-game series at home from May 22-25.