The Seattle Mariners probably wouldn’t mind making the playoffs by winning the wild card. American League West champions, though, has a much nicer ring to it.
The Mariners look to gain a share of first place in the West on Friday night when they continue a four-game series against the Texas Rangers.
Seattle scored seven runs in the sixth inning in a 9-4 victory in Thursday’s series opener. Ichiro Suzuki had a three-run double in between homers by Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro, as the Mariners (72-53) won for the sixth time in seven games.
Since losing a season-high seven straight from July 21-26, the Mariners have won 18 of 25 and are batting .321 with 36 home runs in that span.
Vidro’s two-run homer in the sixth gave him 52 RBIs. Seattle has a franchise-record nine players with at least 50 RBIs, surpassing the previous record of eight set four times before and most recently in 2002.
“Look at our record. We have a balanced lineup, it’s not just one or two guys,” Mariners manager John McLaren said. “We spread it out pretty good.”
Brad Wilkerson hit a two-run homer and matched a career-high with four hits for the Rangers (56-71), who were limited to 10 hits after pounding out 29 in a record-setting 30-3 victory in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday at Baltimore.
“I think everyone might have been a little bit tired,” Texas’ Frank Catalanotto said. “I know I was dragging a little bit today. You don’t want to make excuses, but it’s tough not to point at that.”
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who hit a solo home run Thursday, is batting only .221 (17-for-77) in 20 games since joining the Rangers in a July trade with Atlanta, but has five homers and 10 RBIs in his last six contests.
Felix Hernandez (9-6, 3.94 ERA) looks to win his fourth straight decision for Seattle. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 3.71 ERA in his last five starts, but he wasn’t particularly sharp Sunday in an 11-5 win over the Chicago White Sox, allowing five runs, 10 hits and three walks in 6 1-3 innings.
He benefited from tremendous run support again, getting at least seven runs from his offense for the fourth time in his last five starts. Hernandez also got the White Sox to ground into double plays in each of the first three innings.
“That what I have to do is fight, and fight and fight when you don’t have all your stuff under control,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez has struggled against the Rangers in eight career starts, going 2-4 with a 5.44 ERA. He did, however, pitch seven strong innings in a 3-1 victory over them on Sept. 30.
Kevin Millwood (8-10, 5.39) will make his fifth start of the season against the Mariners. The right-hander is 2-1 with a 5.64 ERA in four starts versus Seattle, allowing 13 earned runs and 16 hits over 16 1-3 innings in the three most recent outings.
He was a tough-luck 1-0 loser to Johan Santana and the Twins on Sunday, yielding one run and four hits in seven innings. Texas batters struck out 17 times against Santana and 19 times for the game.
Since losing three consecutive home starts from April 23-June 6, Millwood is 5-0 with a 3.29 ERA in his last six starts at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
He is 7-4 with a 4.22 ERA in 13 career starts against the Mariners.