The Seattle Mariners are close to being whole for their first postseason trip since 2001.
It might be too late to secure home-field advantage in the American League’s wild-card round, however.
The Mariners expect to activate Rookie of the Year front-runner Julio Rodriguez from the 10-day injured list (lower back strain) before Monday’s opener of a four-game series against the visiting Detroit Tigers that will wrap up the regular season.
After Sunday’s 10-3 loss to lowly Oakland that snapped a four-game winning streak, the Mariners (87-71) are 2 1/2 games behind Toronto in the chase for the AL’s top wild-card berth, which comes with the chance to host the best-of-three, opening-round series.
Seattle holds the tiebreaker over the Blue Jays because they won the season series, but they’d have to sweep the Tigers and hope Toronto loses two of three to Baltimore to pull even.
“There’s been a lot of emotion around our team here in the last four or five days and I think you saw a little bit of the wind out of our sails (Sunday) as we got into that ballgame,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.
Seattle should get a boost from Rodriguez, who went through an extensive workout Sunday.
“The thought is to get him in the game (Monday),” Servais said. “But we’ll see how he feels getting done with a bunch of swings (Sunday) and see where that is at. Hopeful we can get him back in there.”
Servais said catcher Cal Raleigh, who hit a pinch-hit home run on a 3-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday to put an end to the Mariners’ 20-season playoff drought, is also supposed to be in the lineup Monday. Raleigh has started just one game behind the plate in the past week because of a nagging left thumb injury.
Servais said his team will continue pushing to catch the Blue Jays.
“I think it’s a huge advantage to play these (wild-card) games at home. Anybody who says it’s not, they’re crazy. If you were here the other night, you see what kind of advantage that could be in this ballpark for us,” he said. “But again, the schedule, how the Blue Jays are doing and how we are doing will dictate that.”
The Tigers (65-93) haven’t given up on their season, either. They’ve won two in a row and eight of their past nine games, tied for the best record in the AL in that span.
Eric Haase and Victor Reyes homered as the host Tigers beat touted Minnesota pitching prospect Simeon Woods Richardson 5-2 Sunday.
“We want to go home at the end of the year feeling better than we have for much of the year, and wins will do that,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “It’s been a nice month. We have four more games in three days, but I’m proud of our guys for sticking to it ’til the end.”
Right-hander Bryan Garcia (1-0, 3.29 ERA) is scheduled to be called up from Triple-A Toledo to start Monday against Mariners rookie righty George Kirby (8-4, 3.21). Garcia gave up one run in 1 1/3 innings pitched last June in his one career relief appearance against the M’s; Kirby threw five scoreless innings and got the win in his only appearance against Detroit, on Aug. 30.