Seattle Mariners fans have never experienced a World Series.
And with the Mariners having failed to make the postseason since 2001 — the longest drought in North America’s four major professional sports — they had few reasons to dream about one, either.
That could change this weekend, when the defending champion Atlanta Braves arrive in Seattle riding a seven-game winning streak. The Mariners currently hold one of the American League’s three wild-card berths.
One reason for optimism in Seattle: The Mariners (77-60) are following the Braves’ (86-51) longtime blueprint of pitching and defense.
“Every day our team comes into the ballpark and says, ‘Who’s pitching for us?’ And it’s a good feeling,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. ‘OK, who’s pitching? Oh, yeah, we’ll be right there. We’re going to win today.’ And then tomorrow: ‘Oh, yeah. We’re right there.’
“There’s no better feeling: Pitching drives the train; it will always drive the train in baseball, as far as I’m concerned. You’ve got to make the plays behind them and do all the other stuff. But we’re in a good spot. Love our rotation. We just got to keep them healthy.”
Left-hander Robbie Ray (12-8, 3.45 ERA) is scheduled to start the series opener for Seattle. Ray, who won the AL Cy Young Award last season with Toronto before signing with the Mariners as a free agent in the offseason, has won his past four starts while yielding a 1.05 ERA.
Ray hasn’t allowed a run over his past two appearances, including six scoreless innings Saturday in a 4-0 victory at Cleveland. Ray is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in six career starts against Atlanta.
The Braves plan to counter with veteran right-hander Charlie Morton (7-5, 4.01), who is coming off an 8-1 victory last Friday against Miami in which he allowed one run on four hits in 5 2/ 3 innings. Morton is 5-3 with a 4.30 ERA in 10 starts against Seattle.
Both teams had Thursday off.
The Mariners had a rare defensive blemish Wednesday, committing three errors that led to six unearned runs in a 9-6 defeat to the visiting Chicago White Sox despite two home runs by Eugenio Suarez. It was just the second loss for the Mariners in their past 10 games.
“It’s very uncharacteristic of what we normally do,” Servais said. “I do not want to harp on it. The sky is not falling. We had a bad day. We’ll come back and play good defense and throw more strikes and do all those other things you need to do to win games on the weekend. I’m very certain of that.”
The Braves are a half-game behind the New York Mets in the NL East but have a double-digit lead atop the league’s wild-card standings.
Atlanta won 7-3 on Wednesday at Oakland as rookie Spencer Strider overcame a rough start, while Vaughn Grissom and Dansby Swanson homered.
“It’s all about winning today’s game for these guys, no matter who we’re playing,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “They prepare that way. They’re consistent. It does say a lot about this team.”
The infusion of rookies like Strider and Grissom have helped the Braves counter any hangover from winning last year’s World Series.
“It’s been incredible,” Grissom said. “Winning is super fun. These guys, we’re all jelling, and it’s just been unreal.”