The Seattle Mariners are entering a crucial stretch of road games on a roll.
They’ll look to build on their second series sweep this month when they open a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins on Monday night at the Metrodome.
The Mariners (69-52) took three straight from the struggling Chicago White Sox over the weekend, capped by Sunday’s 11-5 win as Jose Guillen homered, singled and drove in five. Seattle, which also swept a three-game set in Baltimore from Aug. 7-9, has won 15 of its last 21 and leads the AL wild card by one-half game over the New York Yankees.
Now, the Mariners, who trail the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels by two games, will play 17 of their next 20 on the road. The stretch includes stops in New York and Detroit, a make-up game against NL Central-leading Cleveland, and three home games against the Angels.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see,” Guillen said. “This is the time everybody has to be ready and rested because every game is going to be very important.”
The Mariners again meet the Twins (62-61), who won two of three in Seattle last week and are trying to stay in the playoff mix. Minnesota has won four of its last five and are six games behind the Indians in the AL Central and eight in back of Seattle for the wild card.
On Sunday, staff ace Johan Santana struck out a team-record 17 in Minnesota’s 1-0 win over Texas, and the Twins set a single-game team record by fanning 19.
“We needed that win, every win from here on out we need,” Minnesota’s Torii Hunter told Twins’ official Web site. “We’re trying to gain ground, and every game from here on out is going to be a playoff atmosphere.”
But Minnesota continued to struggle on offense, going 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position Sunday. They went 0-for-19 in the three-game series and managed only three runs.
A series against Seattle might be what Minnesota needs to get its offense going again—the Twins scored 17 runs in their two wins against the Mariners last week.
Minnesota pounded Horacio Ramirez (7-4, 7.38 ERA), who starts the opener of this series, for six runs in five innings on Tuesday in an 11-3 Mariners loss. It was one of just five times since the All-Star break - including Wednesday’s 6-1 win over Seattle - in which the Twins have managed more than five runs.
Ramirez, meanwhile, has allowed 17 runs in 14 innings in his last three starts and nearly lost his spot in the rotation, but the Mariners decided to give him another shot.
“It’s hard walking in the next day, coming into the clubhouse knowing I didn’t give the team a chance to win,” Ramirez said.
The loss was Ramirez’s first in eight starts at home, but he hasn’t fared nearly as well on the road. In six starts, he is 1-3 with a 13.50 ERA.
Minnesota’s Matt Garza (2-3, 2.05 ERA), who gave up three runs in seven innings to earn the win in his first start against Seattle, will start opposite Ramirez again.
Garza, who had received just three runs of support total in his previous five starts, has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his seven starts this season.