Although they’re not considered one of the front-runners to make the playoffs, the Seattle Mariners are still hanging around the AL wild-card race.
Another sweep over a lowly opponent could make for an interesting final month of the season.
Coming off their first sweep in two months, the Mariners look to win four straight for the first time since the first week of the season when they meet the sputtering Kansas City Royals on Thursday night at Safeco Field.
Seattle (66-61) defeated last-place Oakland 5-3 on Wednesday to complete a three-game sweep and remain 7 1/2 games back of wild card-leading Boston. It was the Mariners’ first sweep since June 19-21 against Arizona.
Jose Lopez(notes) hit his 19th homer and newly acquired Bill Hall(notes) drove in two runs for the Mariners, who played the entire series without nine-time All-Star Ichiro Suzuki(notes), out with a tight right calf. Manager Don Wakamatsu doesn’t want to rush his leadoff hitter back and is not putting a timetable on his return.
The Mariners are 9-2 this year without Suzuki, who is third in the majors with a .359 batting average and 16 hits shy from becoming the first major leaguer with nine consecutive 200-hit seasons.
“It’s not that we’re playing better without him,” said closer David Aardsma(notes), who recorded his 30th save in 34 chances Wednesday. “But when he’s out of the lineup, people think they’ve got to pick it up a bit.”
With players stepping up in Suzuki’s absence, the Mariners have a good chance of extending their winning streak as they open this four-game series against the Royals, owners of the worst record in the AL at 48-78. Seattle hasn’t posted four straight victories since reeling off six in a row April 9-15.
Kansas City arrives in Seattle following Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Cleveland, its sixth defeat in seven games. The Royals have had very little success lately, going a major league-worst 8-19 since July 29.
“It’s a frustrating year,” manager Trey Hillman said. “Losses are tough to let go of.”
Pitching continues to be the heart of Kansas City’s woes.
The Royals have allowed 67 runs in 11 games since Aug. 15, tied with the New York Mets for the third-most in the majors in that span. They have two pitchers in their rotation with ERA’s greater than 5.00, including Thursday’s scheduled starter Kyle Davies(notes) (4-9, 6.12).
Davies yielded six runs, four hits and three walks in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-7 loss to Minnesota on Saturday in his fourth start since being called up from Triple-A Omaha on Aug. 5. The right-hander appeared to be turning things around, allowing three runs in 11 innings over his previous two starts.
“We’re working on some mechanical stuff that will put me in a better position,” Davies told the Royals’ official Web site.
In his first start after being recalled, Davies was knocked around for eight runs and eight hits in 3 2-3 innings of an 11-6 loss to the Mariners.
Fister allowed three runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings of Saturday’s 4-3, 11-inning loss to Cleveland. It was the right-hander’s third quality start in as many major league starts.