Faced with one of the most difficult road trips possible, the Seattle Mariners are one victory away from ensuring it’s a winning one.
They can also clinch a series at Fenway Park for the first time in nearly eight years when they continue their three-game set with the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, but the AL East leaders have rouged up Seattle starter Garrett Olson(notes) in the past.
The Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers have garnered most of the attention in the AL West, but the Mariners (41-38) are hanging around thanks in part to a strong performance on their current nine-game trip.
Seattle started by taking two of three from the major league-best Los Angeles Dodgers, and after dropping two of three at Yankee Stadium, the club opened its series against the Red Sox with a 7-6, 11-inning win Friday.
“There were so many guys that stepped up when we needed it,” Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said.
A victory Saturday would give the club a 5-3 record on the trip going into Sunday’s finale. The Mariners have won 11 of their last 16 overall, pulling within 2 1/2 games of the Rangers and Angels, who are tied for the division lead.
They’re also 3-1 this year against Boston (48-31), although they haven’t won a series at Fenway since Aug. 14-16, 2001. Friday’s win was just their sixth in their last 23 games there.
Their only loss to the Red Sox this season came with Olson (3-2, 4.81 ERA) on the mound. The left-hander has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen this year, but he has won three of his last four starts, beating the Dodgers with five strong innings in Sunday’s 4-2 win.
The former Baltimore Oriole has never beaten Boston, however, going 0-5 with a 7.71 ERA in seven career starts. In those games, he has allowed 10 home runs and 27 walks in 37 1-3 innings.
“Giving up a home run with somebody on base due to a walk is really troublesome. It’s hard to take,” Olson said on May 16, when two of the four men he walked scored on two of the three homers he gave up in Boston’s 5-3 win.
The Red Sox have scored 22 runs in their last three games, but dropped two of them to see their lead in the East slip to two games over the New York Yankees.
After coming back from four runs down in the ninth inning to beat the Orioles on Wednesday, they erased a two-run, eighth-inning deficit Friday and scored another run in the 11th before losing.
They’re hoping Brad Penny(notes) (6-3, 4.79) can get them back on track. While the big right-hander hasn’t completed seven innings in any of his 15 starts, he has been reliable for the Red Sox lately, holding opponents to three or fewer earned runs in nine of his 11 outings since the beginning of May.
He took a difficult loss Sunday at Atlanta, allowing six hits and two runs without a walk in six innings of a 2-1 defeat. There was a brief scare with a thumb injury in the first inning, but Penny pitched through it.
“We lost the game, so there’s no satisfaction in whether I’m pitching good,” Penny said. “But it’s nice to be healthy.”
Penny has faced Seattle just once, allowing five runs in six innings and losing on June 20, 2006, while with the Dodgers.