The Seattle Mariners are missing the playoffs for the sixth straight year, but the season was hardly a disappointment.
The Mariners look to wrap up an encouraging 2007 on a positive note when they host the Texas Rangers in the regular-season finale on Sunday.
A year after finishing last in the AL West and tied for the fourth-worst record in the league, Seattle (87-74) will finish second in its division, and is currently tied with Detroit for the fifth-best record in the AL.
This is the Mariners’ best finish since 2003, when they were second in the West with a 93-69 record.
Seattle defeated the Rangers 5-1 on Saturday to win its fourth straight game, and 12th in its last 18.
The Mariners could have been playing for their first playoff berth since their 116-win season of 2001, if they didn’t win just two of 17 games from Aug. 25-Sept. 11.
The Rangers (75-86), meanwhile, are trying to avoid finishing last in the AL West for the first time since 2003. They are currently tied with Oakland for third in the division.
Texas has lost five straight road games, and 10 of its last 11 away from Rangers Ballpark.
Rookie A.J. Murray (1-1, 4.50 ERA) makes his second career start when he takes the mound for the Rangers. In his first career start on Tuesday, Murray allowed one run and five hits in five innings of a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels, but was not a factor in the decision.
“You really can’t go off one start, but I showed I can go deep in the game,” the 25-year-old left-hander told the team’s official Web site.
Murray, who started the year by making 12 relief appearances, will face the Mariners for his first time.
Seattle counters with Felix Hernandez (13-7, 4.06), who tries once again to win his fourth straight decision.
Hernandez is 7-1 with a 4.12 ERA in his last 12 starts, with the Mariners winning 10 of those games.
The 21-year-old right-hander has already established a new career high for victories in a single season—surpassing the 12 he had a year ago—and is 3-0 with a 3.98 ERA in five starts this month.
Hernandez didn’t have much luck his last time out, though, as he gave up three runs and eight hits in seven innings of a 4-3, 12-inning loss to Cleveland on Tuesday.
In his only start against Texas this season, Hernandez allowed two runs, three hits and struck out seven in six innings of a 4-2 victory on Aug. 24. He is 3-4 with a 5.16 ERA in nine career starts against the Rangers, and is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in four starts at Safeco Field against them.
Ichiro Suzuki was 2-for-4 on Saturday, and is batting .395 (30-for-76) in 17 games against Texas this season. With a .351 batting average on the season, Suzuki will finish second in the AL batting race behind Detroit’s Magglio Ordonez (.360).