OAKLAND, Calif. – For the Mariners, their final off day of the regular season will be a welcomed respite to rest, recover and ready themselves for the final push for the postseason – an emotionally charged sprint of 10 games in 10 days against the two teams they are directly competing with for the American League West
For Mariners fans, Friday can’t get here soon enough.
With a comfortable 6-3 win over the A’s on Wednesday afternoon that wasn’t as close as the score might indicate, the Mariners did what they were supposed to do on this first leg of the final road trip – sweep one of the worst teams in baseball and re-establish their footing in the race for a postseason spot and an American League West title.
Given another quality start from George Kirby and home runs from Dominic Canzone, Julio Rodriguez and Cal Raleigh, the Mariners rolled to another victory over the A’s this season. They finished 12-1 versus Oakland in the season series and improved to 84-68 on the season.
Seattle will have Thursday off in the Dallas-Fort Worth area before opening a pivotal three-game series versus the Rangers on Friday night at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
The Mariners’ final 10 games start with the three road games in Texas followed by the final homestand of the season that features three versus the Astros followed by a four-game series versus the Rangers.
It won’t be dull.
“The playoffs start for us on Friday night,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “It’s what you play all year for. Our year, the way it started out was a little bumpy. We’ve righted the ship, got some things going. And now we’re in a situation where we get to play the teams that we’re competing against in the standings over a 10-day period. It should be super exciting.”
With several key players returning from the injured list, the Rangers (84-68) rolled out their projected postseason lineup and just crushed the Red Sox, rallying from an early four-run deficit for a 15-5 win.
The Astros (85-68) avoided being swept at home by the Orioles, needing a walkoff single from Mauricio Dubon in the bottom of the ninth for a 2-1 victory.
Houston, which holds a one-half-game lead over Seattle and Texas, will also be off on Thursday, meaning there will be no movement the AL West standings.
“I’m definitely really excited,” Rodriguez said. “I feel everybody’s ready to get to the field, honestly. Everybody’s excited, everybody’s ready to compete and lay everything on the line over there”
Kirby pitched seven innings, allowing three runs on eight hits with no walks and three strikeouts to improve to 11-10.
He wasn’t dominant, but he was efficient and pitched with the lead, making runners earn their way on.
“I thought George was as sharp as we’ve seen him in quite a while,” Servais said. “He was super aggressive and attacked the strike zone.”
Kirby’s runs allowed came on a pair of homers. In the fourth inning, pitching with a 2-0 lead, Kirby gave up solo homer to Zach Gelof on 1-0 splitter than hung up in the zone.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth and the Mariners leading 6-1, veteran left-handed hitters Seth Brown jumped on a first-pitch fastball for a single. Kirby looked like he might strikeout Oakland’s All-Star first baseman Brent Rooker to end the inning. He got a swinging strike on an elevated 97-mph fastball above the zone and foulball on a curveball. Kirby went back to the fastball up, but it stayed about an inch lower than the previous fastball. Rooker smashed if over the wall in center for his 27th homer of the season.
“I don’t want to go back and look a those pitches and think ‘oh, I should’ve thrown this or thrown it another spot. Everyone’s a good hitter up here and they can hit splitters or high heaters. You just have to tip your cap and keep attacking.”
Facing right-handed starter Joe Estes, who was making his MLB debut, the Mariners got an unexpected spark from Canzone, who had admittedly struggled of late.
He crushed a two-run homer to right field, a blast that traveled 448 feet for an early lead.
Rodriguez and Raleigh hit back-to-back homers to start the fifth and Canzone added a two-run double.