They open the final game before the All-Star break 45-42 and four games out in the American League West.
Winning today might not reduce that number – the Angels could win, too. But winning would inch the Seattle Mariners to within 2 1/2 games of Texas and second place. A loss would leave them 4 1/2 back.
That’s no small swing.
What the Mariners have done in the first half is remarkable, given the season they’re coming off and the roster they have. Inexplicably, this team believes in itself, and a growing fan base has come to appreciate it’s maximum effort approach.
Today, it’s Erik Bedard vs. Dustin Nippert.
Why defense matters
Erik Bedard sruck out Ian Kinsler on a nasty curve to open the first inning, then lost command of the pith and couldn’t throw it for strikes – walking Michael Young and then Josh Hamilton.
In a world of trouble, Bedard then threw a fastball in the wheelhouse of Adam Jons – who lined it into center field.
Franklin Gutierrez back-handed the ball with a diving catch, threw to second for the double play and Bedard was in the dugout instead.
Big play, indeed.
Mariners take advantage
Saved by the defense, the Mariners offense didn’t have to play catch up – so it took the lead, instead.
Ichiro singled and with one out scored on a Jose Lopez double, just beating the throw to the plate.
Ichiro’s hit, by the way, extended his latest hitting streak to 11 consecutive games.
After one: Mariners 1, Rangers 0
Living on the edge
Bedard has had one 1-2-3 innings in the first four, and the fourth wasn’ it.
An error and a walk put him in trouble yet again, but with his 61st pitch, Bedard struck out Hank Blalock.
Miguel Batista began warming up in the bullpen.
Bedard got Marlon yrd to ground into a force play. Nelson Cruz banged a ball up the middle – right to where Lopez was playing him – and Bedard was out of it again.
Through four innings, he’s labored with men on base in three of them and still has a shutout. His pitch count may not allow him to start the fifth inning.
After losing him for a month with shoulder inflammation, the Mariners aren’t about to push him beyond his comfort zone.
In the fourth: Mariners 1, Rangers 0
Small ball and hustle
Gutierrez and Langerhans open the fourth with singles but two outs later hadn’t moved. Ronny Cedeno – batting .157 – the beat out an infield single with a dive into first base that loaded he bases.
Ichiro rolled a ball up the first base line about 40 feet for an RBI single and Russell Branyan walked to force home another run, his 49th RBI of the year.
After four: Mariners 3, Rangers 0
Keep giving them chances, the Rangers – or any team – will score runs.
Bedard walked Adruw Jones with one out in the sixth inning, his fourth walk, and Hank Blalock unloaded his 19th home run. Byrd struck out, and that was it for Bedard.
Batista took over, and on his first pitch allowd a home run to Nelson Cruz.
In the sixth: Mariners 3, Rangers 3
With two outs in the seventh, the Mariners had an improbable rally that began when Griffey legged out an infield single.
Gutierrez followed with a single, and pinch-hitter Chris Shelton – atting for Langerhans – singled hom pinch-runner Josh Wilson to break the tie.
Rob Johnson singled home Gutierrez
After seven: Mariners 5, Rangers 3
Ninth inning, two-run lead, David Aardsma inherited a two-run lead lookiing for his 20th save.
Ground ball, fly ball, a walk to pinch-hitter David Murphy, strike out.
It’s a final: Mariners 5, Rangers 3