GAME: Mariners (13-17, 3rd, AL West, -5.5 GB) at Blue Jays (10-18, 5th, AL East, -9.5 GB). GAME #: 31. SERIES: 1st of 3 games. MEETING: 1st (Mariners won 2012 series 6-3). WHEN: Friday, 4:07 p.m., Rogers Center. STREAKS: Mariners W 1; Blue Jays L 1. TV: Root Sports. RADIO: ESPN 710, Mariners Radio Network
After not winning a series for most of April, the Mariners stanched an unfolding pratfall in their latest home stand, taking three of four from the L.A. Angels and two of three from the Baltimore Orioles, including Wednesday’s 8-3 decision that featured six solid innings from Aaron Harang and another burst of optimism from manager Eric Wedge.
“I feel like our guys have taken significant steps and what you are seeing now is more the norm in regard to what our guys are capable of,” Wedge told reporters Wednesday night. “The way we’re going to go about doing it is to be a complete team and to be able to count on all areas of our club.”
It’s not difficult to imagine how incomplete, if not inept, the Mariners would be without Michael Morse. When he hit an opposite-field, two-run homer Wednesday, his third long ball in four games and ninth of the season, he became the first Seattle hitter to have nine home runs in the team’s first 30 games since Mike Cameron in 2002.
Cameron had four of his nine in one contest — May 2, 2002, at Chicago — while Morse missed time in April with a fractured little finger on his right hand.
The Mariners, 0-7 in series before the Angels arrived, are off Thursday (their first break in 16 days) while they travel to Toronto, where they will begin a three-game series Friday night. The Mariners will then play two in Pittsburgh before returning to Safeco Field May 10 for three with the Oakland A’s.
Felix Hernandez will try to continue the positive momentum Seattle has going Friday against the Blue Jays. During the series, the Mariners will face reigning National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, who pitched for Seattle in 2008, and former first-round draft pick Brandon Morrow. The weekend’s probables:
Hernandez: The 27-year-old Venezuela native, in his ninth major league season, all with Seattle, will make his seventh start and first against the Blue Jays. Hernandez has allowed just two earned runs over his last three starts and his current ERA (1.90) and WHIP (0.96) are on pace for the lowest of his career after six outings. Hernandez, with wins over Houston and the L.A. Angels in his past two, is seeking his third consecutive victory.
Johnson: The 29-year-old, a Minneapolis native in his ninth major league season and first with Toronto, will make his fifth start and first against the Mariners. A former All-Star, Johnson is off to a rugged beginning, working into the seventh inning in one of his starts. He has allowed 16 earned runs in 19.2 innings, the nadir coming April 11 at Detroit when he recorded just four outs while yielding six earned runs. Johnson fared considerably better in his last start, although he received a no-decision.
Saunders: The 31-year-old Saunders, a Springfield, VA., native in his ninth major league season and first with the Mariners, will make his seventh start and first against the Blue Jays. Saunders is coming off his best start, a complete-game effort against Baltimore April 29, but has had massive trouble pitching on the road with an 0-3 record and 12.51 ERA (vs. 2-0, 0.81 at Safeco Field). In his last road outing, at Houston April 24, the Astros battered him for eight earned runs in 5.0 innings.
Dickey: The former Mariner, in his 11th major league season and first with Toronto, will make his seventh start and first against his old club, for whom he pitched in 2008. Dickey won the National League’s Cy Young award last year with the Mets, but is off to a tough start in Toronto. He lost his first two, won his next two and has dropped his last two, suffering one-one decisions in each. Dickey went 5-8, 5.25 for the 2008 Mariners. Last year, he went 20-6, 2.74 for the Mets.
Iwakuma: The 32-year-old Iwakuma, a Tokyo native in his second major league season, both with Seattle, will make his seventh start and first against the Blue Jays. The only trouble for Iwakuma, the major league leader in WHIP (0.69), this season has been a bothersome blister on his middle finger. But it was better in his last start (6.0 innings, one unearned run vs. the Angels) and he’s getting two extra days between starts this week to help. Iwakuma, who has fanned 19 batters in his past two starts, will be seeking his first victory since April 12.
Morrow: The 28-year-old Morrow, a Santa Rosa, CA., native in his seventh major league season and fourth with the Blue Jays, will make his seventh start and first against the Mariners. Morrow has already had four no-decisions and has struggled all season, failing to pitch more than 6.1 innings in a game this year. He allowed just one earned run in his first start (April 3), but has given up 11 earned runs in his past three.
MARINERS STATS / NOTES
- CURRENT ROAD TRIP: Three at Toronto (Friday-Sunday) and two at Pittsburgh (Tuesday-Wednesday). The Mariners return to Safeco Field May 10 for a three-game series with Oakland, and then head out on a nine-game road trip during which they will face the Yankees, Indians and Angels.
- The Mariners entered Wednesday’s game hitting .230 with two outs, but scored four runs on two-out hits in the 8-3 win over Baltimore.
- Jesus Montero’s triple in the second inning was the first of his major league career.
- The Mariners reached double figures in hits in six of seven games during the home stand, including 11 Wednesday.
- Michael Saunders had three more hits from the leadoff spot, lifting his average to .286.
- In the Mariners’ 13 victories, they are batting .321 (34-for-106) with runners in scoring position. In 17 losses, the Mariners are batting .115 (13-for-113) with RISP. The Mariners have no hits with RISP nine times in 30 games.
|5/3||Fri||at Tor||RHP Felix Hernandez (3-2) vs. RHP Josh Johnson (0-1)|
|5/4||Sat||at Tor||LHP Joe Saunders (2-3) vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (2-4)|
|5/5||Sun||at Tor||RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (2-1) vs. Brandon Morrow (0-2)|
|5/7||Tue||at Pitt||RHP Aaron Harang (1-3) vs. RHP James McDonald (2-2)|
|5/8||Wed||at Pitt||RHP Felix Hernandez (3-2) vs. RHP A.J. Burnett (2-2)|