MLB Team Report - Seattle Mariners - INSIDE PITCH
SEATTLE -- The Seattle Mariners could count on one hand the number of truly meaningful baseball games they played this late in a season over the past decade, so the weekend series against the Detroit Tigers takes on special meaning for a franchise thick in the American League wild-card hunt.
The returns of manager Lloyd McClendon and center fielder Austin Jackson to Detroit are footnotes in a three-game series that could be a factor in determining which AL teams are involved in the postseason.
The Mariners essentially have one day to celebrate their best homestand of the season, as they are idle Thursday. Seattle went 9-11 over its previous three homestands before finishing off an 8-1 homestand with a 2-0 win over Toronto on Wednesday. The Mariners swept the Blue Jays and put themselves in control of their wild-card destiny.
The Mariners could come out of this weekend with a slim lead in the wild-card standings with fewer than 40 games to play -- a rare position for a franchise that hasn't seen the postseason since 2002.
The key to the season is a pitching staff that is putting up historic numbers. The Mariners had a major-league-best 2.95 team ERA after Wednesday's win. They are on pace to become the first American League team since the 1974 Oakland A's to post a season ERA lower than 3.00.
The pitching could get even better if left-hander James Paxton begins to extend himself after missing the first half of the season with shoulder and back problems.
"I think this man could be the glue of the rotation," McClendon said of Paxton, who is scheduled to start Friday's series opener in Detroit. "I'm anxious to see him pitch. I think he's going to be better each and every time out."
The 8-1 homestand and series sweep might have put the Mariners in the right frame of mind heading into the pivotal Detroit series, but McClendon doesn't necessarily see it that way.
"Momentum is the next day's starting pitcher," he said. "If Paxton can pitch the way he is capable of on Friday, we'll be all right. But I don't believe in that momentum stuff."
Jackson, who will be making his first trip back to the Motor City since being traded from the Tigers in a deadline deal, had a different take.
"We definitely have some momentum built up," he said. "We're playing well. We'll just try to keep the momentum going into the next series."
MLB Team Report - Seattle Mariners - NOTES, QUOTES
STREAK: Won four
NEXT: Friday -- Mariners (LHP James Paxton, 2-0, 2.38 ERA) at Tigers (RHP Rick Porcello, 13-7, 3.11 ERA)
--LHP Roenis Elias pitched five innings of no-hit ball in his Triple-A debut Wednesday. Elias, a rookie who pitched at Double-A last year and spent the first four months of this season with the Mariners, struck out six of the 16 batters he faced, allowing one walk in the outing. Elias was sent to Triple-A Tacoma last week in an effort to limit the 26-year-old's innings for the stretch run. He could be recalled during the Philadelphia series early next week.
--DH Kendrys Morales homered for the second consecutive night, doubling the total he had in 154 at-bats with Minnesota earlier this season. Morales had one home run in 215 at-bats heading into Tuesday night's game against Toronto, then he went and hit two in a span of three at-bats over two nights. Morales finished 2-for-3 while driving in both of Seattle's runs in the 2-0 win over Toronto on Wednesday.
--RHP Hisashi Iwakuma posted another quality start Wednesday night, when he pitched 6 2/3 innings of five-hit shutout ball to help beat Detroit 2-0. It marked the third start in a row that Iwakuma allowed one run or none. His August ERA is 0.84.
--1B Logan Morrison saw his 13-game hitting streak end with an 0-for-3 performance against Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on Wednesday night. Morrison hit .333 (15-for-45) during the streak.
--RHP Fernando Rodney worked for the fifth time in six games Wednesday, and he pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn his 35th save of the season. Five of the saves have come in August. "I probably overextended Rodney more than I wanted to," manager Lloyd McClendon said, "but he did a great job. He's a warrior."
--LHP James Paxton has thrown fewer than 85 pitches in each of his two starts since coming off the disabled list, and the Mariners are likely to start extending him. His fastball has been in the mid- to upper-90s, and Paxton has had success (10 hits, three earned runs allowed over 10 1/3 innings), so the only thing holding him back is rust. If Paxton has another decent outing during his scheduled Friday start at Detroit, the Mariners are likely to push his pitch count into the 90s.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a good homestand, and guys should be proud of it, but it's over now. We've got to get ready for this weekend's series against the Detroit Tigers." -- Manager Lloyd McClendon, after the Mariners beat the Toronto Blue Jays 2-0 Wednesday to finish off an 8-1 homestand.
MLB Team Report - Seattle Mariners - ROSTER REPORT
--RF Michael Saunders (strained left oblique) went on the 15-day disabled list July 11. He began a rehab assignment at Triple-A Tacoma on Aug. 7. He took a few days off from his rehab assignment as of Aug. 12 to be with his expecting wife in Colorado. Saunders could be close to returning to the Mariners when his rehab assignment resumes.
--INF Willie Bloomquist (right knee contusion) went on the 15-day disabled list July 24. An MRI revealed a deep bone bruise. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Aug. 8. He will miss the rest of the season after team doctors discovered more extensive damage to the knee. He will likely need six-to-eight weeks of recovery time before beginning a rehab process.
--DH Corey Hart (bruised right knee) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 2.
RHP Felix Hernandez
RHP Chris Young
RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
LHP James Paxton
RHP Fernando Rodney (closer)
RHP Danny Farquhar
LHP Charlie Furbush
RHP Tom Wilhelmsen
RHP Brandon Maurer
RHP Yoervis Medina
LHP Joe Beimel
RHP Dominic Leone
1B Logan Morrison
2B Robinson Cano
SS Brad Miller
3B Kyle Seager
DH Kendrys Morales
INF Chris Taylor
LF Dustin Ackley
CF Austin Jackson
RF Chris Denorfia
OF Endy Chavez
OF James Jones