Opposite dugout: Unyielding Mariners in thick of wild card chase

MarinersLogo.jpgManager: Scott Servais (2nd season)

Record: 66-65

Last 10 games: 6-4

Who to watch: SS Jean Segura (.301, 18 SB), DH Nelson Cruz (.289/.372/.555 with 31 HR, 101 RBIs), 2B Robinson Canó (19 HR, 78 RBIs), 1B Yonder Alonso (.270, 24 HR), LHP Ariel Miranda (8-6, 4.62 ERA), RHP Edwin Díaz (30 saves)

Season series vs. Orioles: 2-1

Pitching probables:

Aug. 28: LHP Marco Gonzalez vs. RHP Chris Tillman, 7:05 p.m., MASN2
Aug. 29: RHP Erasmo Ramírez vs. RHP Dylan Bundy, 7:05 p.m., MASN2
Aug. 30: LHP Ariel Miranda vs. RHP Ubaldo Jiménez, 3:05 p.m., MASN

Inside the Mariners:

Give the Mariners credit for hanging in there. Manager Scott Servais has kept his club engaged, and general manager Jerry DiPoto has pulled off deal after deal after deal. As a result - and even though the Astros are running away with the American League West - the Mariners are in the thick of the wild card race in the AL, starting play today just 1 1/2 games back of the second spot, held by the Twins. It would have been easy to pack it in and play for next year when the Mariners' deficit in the division grew to double digits. Instead, veterans are upping their games at a critical time of the season and inexperienced players with little or no postseason experience are playing like they're used to being in a playoff race. Seattle has won seven of 11 games and is 7-1-1 in its last nine road series. Baltimore is the last stop on a 14-day, 12-game odyssey that will take them 7,500 miles. Talk about a trek!

Though the lineup is largely bereft of classic power hitters - the Mariners have hit 148 homers, good for 23rd in the majors - they can get the job done offensively. Shortstop Jean Segura (.301, 18 stolen bases) gets on at the top of the order and center fielder Jarrod Dyson (28 stolen bases) is adept at turning over the lineup from the bottom end. In the middle, there are dangerous bats - ageless DH Nelson Cruz (who has 14 homers and 30 RBIs in the second half and has already surpassed the 100-RBI mark for the season); third baseman Kyle Seager, who has 19 homers and 68 RBIs in a down year; second baseman Robinson Canó, who was slashing .318/.376/.435 in August and just returned from a hamstring issue that briefly sidelined him; and resurgent first baseman Yonder Alonso, an acquisition from the A's who has homered just twice for his new team in what is shaping up to be a career year with 24 longballs. Some of the guys the Mariners trot out there aren't household names, but they end up being just pesky enough to make an impression - and keep their team in contention.

Lefty Marco Gonzalez starts the series opener for the Mariners, and it will be his fifth start since being acquired in a trade with the Cardinals. Once considered a top pitching prospect, Gonzalez has struggled in a small sample size, as his 7.40 ERA and 1.79 WHIP might suggest. He's yet to pitch five innings for Seattle in any start and has given up a homer in each of his four previous outings. The Orioles are quite familiar with righty Erasmo Ramírez, who starts Tuesday. In 16 games (six starts), Ramírez is 2-3 with a 2.98 ERA against them. He's 1-1 since being acquired from the Rays in late July, but has posted quality starts in his last three outings without allowing a homer (he gave up five longballs in his first two starts with Seattle). In five August starts, he was 1-1 with a 3.76 ERA. Ramírez has worked seven scoreless innings against the Orioles this season in two relief appearances. Wednesday starter Ariel Miranda made his major league debut for the O's against the Mariners last season before being traded for Wade Miley. The Cuban southpaw has had flashes of brilliance, but also long and frustrating stretches: Over his last nine starts, he's reached six innings only once. Since the All-Star break, foes are slashing .250/.320/.558 off him and 19 of the 31 homers he's yielded have come on the road. Miranda has never faced his former club.

If they get a lead to the ninth inning, the Mariners will call on hard-throwing righty Edwin Díaz, who has 30 saves in 34 tries this season. His 3.51 ERA and 2-5 win-loss record might not look too imposing, but he's fanned 76 in 56 1/3 innings and carries a 1.19 WHIP.

Orioles and Red Sox lineups
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