The Seattle Mariners struggled on their last road trip, but are doing well on their current one.
In Sunday’s finale, the Mariners go for their fifth win in six games when they close a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox.
Seattle (64-50) lost the last six games of its seven-game road trip July 20-25, with five of those defeats coming by one run each. The Mariners managed only 3.0 runs per game while batting .244 on that trip.
On their current trip, however, they’re averaging 8.2 runs per game and batting .365. That surge has helped them to win four of five games and pull into a tie with the New York Yankees for the AL wild card lead.
“When they get a pitch, they’re hitting it before they foul it off,” Mariners manager John McLaren told the team’s official Web site. “When a pitcher does make a mistake, they’re there to capitalize on it.”
Raul Ibanez has provided much of the offense lately for Seattle. He has at least two hits in each game during the road trip, batting .565 (13-for-23) with five home runs and 11 RBIs.
“Raul has been swinging the bat hot, and that’s an understatement,” McLaren said. “He’s staying inside the ball. He’s a professional and, to his credit, he stuck to the game plan. He’s showing he’s healthy. He’s got his stroke back.”
Ibanez went 3-for-5 with a three-run homer in Seattle’s 7-6 win over the White Sox on Saturday.
“I’m just really seeing it and hitting it,” he said. “Trying to get a good pitch to hit, and put a good swing on it.”
Yuniesky Betancourt also hit his first career grand slam in the win. After going 0-for-4 in a 10-3 loss to Baltimore on Tuesday in the opener of the road trip, he’s batted .438 (7-for-16) with a homer, five RBIs and seven runs in four games.
The White Sox (54-62) dropped to 2-3 on their six-game homestand after winning four straight on the road.
Chicago, though, is encouraged by the recent success of third baseman Josh Fields. The 24-year-old rookie - playing in place of the injured Joe Crede - is 4-for-9 with three home runs in this series, and his first career grand slam brought the White Sox within one run in Saturday’s ninth inning.
“He’s got more confidence,” Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen told the White Sox’s official Web site. “The more playing time he has, he should get better.”
Fields and the White Sox will face Seattle’s Jeff Weaver (3-10, 6.20 ERA), who’s looking to build on his first win in more than six weeks. The right-hander was 0-4 with a 4.58 ERA in his last six starts before beating Baltimore on Tuesday despite allowing 11 hits in six innings.
“You’ve got to continue to grind and eventually it’ll turn around,” Weaver said. “Hopefully, this is starting point.”
Weaver is 5-6 with a 4.23 ERA in 15 career games, including 13 starts, against the White Sox, who he hasn’t beaten since 2001 while pitching for Detroit.
He’ll face left-handed rookie John Danks (6-9, 4.96), who suffered a 2-1 loss to Cleveland on Tuesday despite holding the Indians to two runs and four hits while striking out eight in six innings.
“He’s throwing great,” Guillen said. “Every time he takes the ball, you get the max effort from him. If this kid continues to throw the ball like that, he is going to have a heck of a career.”
In his lone start against the Mariners on May 2, Danks gave up three runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 3-2 loss.