The Seattle Mariners are hoping to make a push for the playoffs in the second half of the season, and they got off to a good start in their first game after the All-Star break.
They’ll try for their fifth straight victory Friday when they continue a four-game series with the NL Central-leading Detroit Tigers at Safeco Field.
The Mariners (50-36) improved to a season-best 14 games over .500 with Thursday’s 3-2 series-opening win. They are just two games behind the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels, who open the second half of their season on Friday.
The Mariners have won 15 of their last 19 games, including an eight-game winning streak June 23-July 1. Mike Hargrove surprised the team by resigning as manager after the last of those wins, but Seattle is 5-3 under new skipper John McLaren.
“I think I’ve got my feet on the ground now, and the guys, to their credit, they’ve stepped up to the plate,” McLaren told the Mariners’ official Web site. “They’ve played great baseball, and that’s what we’re looking to from here on out.”
Adrian Beltre hit a bases-loaded two run single Thursday and stayed alive on the basepaths long enough for the third run to score in the fifth inning. He was eventually called out on an appeal for failing to touch second base on the play.
The Tigers (52-35), meanwhile, lost for the first time in six games and just the second time this month. Magglio Ordonez, who leads the majors with a .365 batting average, drove in both of their runs.
Ordonez has hit .351 in 20 games against the Mariners since the beginning of the 2005 season, but struck out to end the game with the tying run at second.
The Tigers will give the ball to Jeremy Bonderman (9-1, 3.48 ERA), who is coming off an impressive first half. He went eight innings in both of his final two starts before the break after winning each of his previous eight outings.
Bonderman gave up just two runs last Saturday as the Tigers beat Boston 3-2 in 13 innings for their 10th win in his last 11 starts. Both of the runs came on a first-inning homer against Bonderman, who has given up seven home runs and is allowing opponents to hit .373 against him in the first inning. After the first, he has allowed only three homers and a .222 batting average.
Bonderman, a Washington native, is 3-2 with a 3.99 ERA in six career starts against the Mariners. He allowed five runs in six innings against them on May 8 in Detroit but still came away with a 9-7 win.
Seattle will counter with Jarrod Washburn (8-6, 3.72), who won his final three starts of the first half, allowing just three runs in 22 innings over that span. He went eight innings in a 4-0 victory in Kansas City on July 4 to give McLaren his first win.
“He has supreme confidence,” McLaren told the Mariners’ site. “Heckuva gamer. He believes in himself, his stuff, his team.”
Washburn owns a 4-6 record and a 4.54 ERA in 12 career starts against the Tigers, and has lost each of his last five outings against them since his last victory on May 4, 2004, with the Angels.