SHARE

ARLINGTON, Texas — One night after inching past the Texas Rangers in the wild-card race, the Seattle Mariners look to increase the gap against their American League West rival.

Going into Thursday night’s series finale at Globe Life Park, Seattle is in position to take three of four against Texas.

The Los Angeles Angels, another division rival, stand between the Mariners and the second-place wild-card team, the Minnesota Twins. Seattle (73-73) leapfrogged Texas and Kansas City on Wednesday and is 3 1/2 games behind the Twins.

“There’s always that urgency that sets in,” said Mike Zunino, who hit two home runs Wednesday in an 8-1 victory. “Obviously, we’re running out of time. There’s only a few (16) games left. You want to come together and play as well as we can. Our pitching’s been great. That really started us, and we’ve been able to back things up.”

The Mariners have won four of their last six.

The Rangers (72-73) have to feel good about their chances to at least split the series, with red-hot Andrew Casher (9-9) going to the mound. The 30-year-old right-hander has gone 6-2 with a 2.49 ERA over his last 11 starts to lower season ERA from 3.87 to 3.19, sixth-lowest among AL qualifiers.

“He’s been the most consistent guy out there,” manager Jeff Banister said. “He’s missed a little time but has progressively gotten better throughout the year. He’s been a stabilizer in that rotation. He’s pitched like a front-end-of-the-rotation pitcher for us.”

Cashner has been in and out of qualifying status all season because of stints on the disabled list and a skipped start, but he needs just 15 1/3 innings the rest of the way to become a 2017 qualifier. He is 1-3 with a 3.26 ERA in seven games (six starts) against Seattle in his career, including 1-1 and 2.60 in three starts this season.

The Mariners counter with longtime ace Felix Hernandez. The 31-year-old right-hander is making his first start since being on the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder bursitis. Hernandez was also on the DL with right shoulder bursitis from April 26 to June 23.

“We’re fighting for one spot in the wild card, so I’m just trying to help this team to win,” Hernandez said. “If I can do a little something to help, that will be good.”

Hernandez is 19-23 with a 3.93 ERA in 52 career starts vs. Texas, including 7-11 with a 4.38 ERA in 24 starts at Globe Life Park.

The Rangers’ injury ranks added another member with first baseman Mike Napoli going down with a stress reaction in his lower right leg. Despite the initial decision to shut him down, Napoli insists he could play if needed.

“I’ve always played with stuff going on my whole career,” said Napoli, who first began feeling a problem with his leg in Atlanta last week. “I told (Banister) I can play. I’m not the person who is just going to say, ‘I’m done.'”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here