With the win and Minnesota losing Sunday, Seattle moved to 2½ games back in the American League wild-card standings.
There’s more than a few ways to look at the Mariners’ situation after Sunday’s 10-2 trouncing of the Athletics at Safeco Field.
First, they continue to be consistently streaky. After losing five straight to close out the previous road trip, they come back home — a place where they hadn’t played well of late — and swept an Oakland team, which they should beat, in three straight games.
With the win and Minnesota losing Sunday, Seattle moved to 2½ games back in the American League wild-card standings with the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Angels 1½ games out.
“We’ve been up and down and all over the map as this year has played out,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “We’re a very resilient club. The guys kind of know where we are at this point in the season and what it is going to take. Nobody is feeling 100 percent physically and mentally we’ve gone through a lot. But the team that’s going to be standing at the end is the team that wants it the worst. I think guys do want to be that club. But we’ve got a lot of baseball ahead of us over this last month.”
The offense, which has been a little more inconsistent than Servais and fans would expect or prefer in the second half, came to life in the series against the A’s. Seattle banged out 17 hits Sunday and turned the game into a rout with a five-run eighth inning. Robinson Cano and Mitch Haniger each homered and notched four hits.
“It was a really nice day offensively,” Servais said. “We haven’t had one of those in quite some time. It was great to see Cano get going again. He’s going to be huge for us through September, and Haniger as well. Hanny has swung the bat well after a couple rough days on the road trip. That’s great to see.”
After playing in 35 games without hitting a homer, Cano has hit them in back-to-back games. For the second straight day, he crushed a two-run homer to right field. The first-inning blast accompanied three singles, two of which drove in runs.
“I think last night when he hit the ball out of the park, it relaxed him,” Servais said. “He showed up today and he was seeing pitches, he was tracking the ball better and staying behind the ball. He’s got a special swing, but you still have to get good pitches to hit.”
Haniger is on a tear since taking some early batting practice with coaches Edgar Martinez and Scott Brosius in Baltimore. After a single, a double and a single, he smashed his 10th homer of the season to left field in the seventh inning to push Seattle’s lead to 5-1. In his past four games, he has 10 hits in 16 at-bats with three doubles, two homers and six runs batted in.
“My timing is better and I’m just trying to keep the barrel of my bat more upright,” he said. “It allows me to see the ball deeper and hit the ball to all fields better. That’s been the focus in the cage and in batting practice and it’s paying off.”
While three wins and all the runs scored were important in their quest to stay relevant in the postseason push, the rest of the homestand will be significantly more difficult, starting with three games against the division-leading Houston Astros. That will be followed by a three-game series over the weekend with the Angels, whom the Mariners are chasing in the wild-card race.
“Obviously we have a lot of big games ahead of us,” Servais said. “We’ll continue it one day at a time. I know it’s cliché, but that’s what we are going with and what we are sticking with.”
The Mariners will face lefty Dallas Keuchel, recently acquired Justin Verlander — both former Cy Young winners — and Lance McCullers Jr. in the series. It will certainly be a test for the offense.
“For us every game is big, no matter who we face,” Cano said. “We have to go out and compete. I don’t think anybody can intimidate this team. You just go out and play and forget about who is pitching and play the same game we play.”
Starter Andrew Albers was outstanding if not always efficient. He needed 11 pitches to get Marcus Semien — the first batter he faced — to pop out.
“That’s not really the way you want to start a game,” he said. “You look up and all of the sudden you are 11 pitches deep. And you’re like, ‘Oh, it could be a long day.’ ”
But it wasn’t. Albers retired the next 10 batters in a row before issuing a two-out walk in the fourth inning for his first base runner. He carried his bid for a no-hitter into the sixth inning. But with his pitch count at 85 entering the frame, the possibility of a solo no-hitter seemed unreachable. It became moot when Matt Olson led off the inning with a homer to left field.
“I wasn’t going to finish the game,” Albers said. “You know what’s going on. I usually give up a lot of hits so I don’t usually get that far into a game where I haven’t given up a hit yet. I wouldn’t have liked to give it up the way I did. But at the same time, you are in the sixth inning and it’s a 3-0 game and I feel like the worst thing I can do there is walk a guy. So I was going to continue to attack and he put a good swing on the ball. Right there, I’d rather give up the homer than walk him. And I gave up the homer.”
Seattle’s bullpen would allow just one run in the final three innings with Nick Vincent cleaning up a minor mess in the eighth inning.