Out of Right Field: Mariners’ postseason hopes are fleeting

Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano looks out from the dugout before taking the field for the team’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday in Seattle. It was Cano’s first home game since returning from an 80-game suspension. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
Seattle Mariners infielder Andrew Romine walks off the field with third baseman Kyle Seager after Romine pitched the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / AP)

It has came to the point in the season when the Seattle Mariners are trying to keep their playoff hopes alive with baling wire.

And it appears that won’t be nearly enough.

Yes, they’re still on pace to win 90 games.

They got a boost this past week from the return of eight-time All-Star Robinson Cano after his 80-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

And “King” Felix Hernandez showed flashes of his old self in the first relief appearance of his career, coming in after James Paxton was nailed on the left forearm by a line drive that necessitated a trip to the 10-day disabled list.

Dee Gordon started at shortstop Friday night, his third position of the week – after playing second base and center field – because All-Star Jean Segura was placed on the paternity list before the series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But more disturbing for the Mariners as they reach the final month of summer is the state of their starting rotation, which has been a strength this season.

With 12-game winner Marco Gonzales having his next appearance pushed back (more on that later), the Mariners are using three starters in their interleague series this weekend against the defending National League champions who began the season in the minors – left-hander Wade LeBlanc, right-hander Erasmo Ramirez and left-hander Roenis Elias.

That’s not going to get it done.

And it’s certainly not going to get the Mariners past the reigning World Series-champion Houston Astros and the streaking Oakland Athletics, who are tied for the American League West lead.

So Seattle fans are left to ponder the same question they’ve asked at this point in the season for all but the first couple of years of the century: When is the Seahawks’ opener?

Pitching

Gonzales, the former Gonzaga University standout, was originally scheduled to start Sunday’s series finale against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Instead, he won’t pitch until Wednesday against the Astros.

“It’s something we’ve talked about for a while now,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said Friday. “We gave him a pretty good break at the All-Star break. We’ll give him a couple extra days here and then we have some off days coming up, so he’ll get a couple extra days between his next start. So we have a span of about 20 days where he’ll make three starts instead of four.”

It would seem Gonzales could use the extended rest. He’s already eclipsed his career high with 142 2/3 innings pitched and is 0-3 with a 7.94 ERA this month.

“The main objective is to have a strong finish and not be crawling across the finish line at the end of the year,” Gonzales told MLB.com. “In that aspect and that lens, I’m taking it as a positive. … They have my best interest in mind. I’m not taking this as they don’t believe in me or anything like that. It’s collectively, let’s figure out how we win games late in the year.”

Hitting

For a team that has been as run-challenged as the Mariners have been since the All-Star break, why is Guillermo Heredia on the major-league roster and Ben Gamel in Triple-A Tacoma?

Gamel was sent down when the Mariners acquired outfielder Cameron Maybin at the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline.

The left-handed Gamel entered the weekend batting .351 for the Rainiers, which would be good enough to lead the Pacific Coast League should he have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting crown.

Heredia, a right-handed batter, is 4 for 27 with zero RBIs this month.

Yes, Heredia has a superior glove. But with Maybin, Denard Span and Mitch Haniger in the outfield, there’s no need for a late-inning defensive replacement.

On deck

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Mariners, who play host to Houston for three games starting Monday. After an off day Thursday, they’ll travel to Arizona for a three-game series against the N.L. West-leading Diamondbacks.