Already battling the Tigers, Astros, Orioles and Blue Jays for a wild-card slot in the American League playoffs, the Mariners now face another potentially daunting opponent as they head into the second game of their current six-game road swing — distraction.
Seattle faces the Twins on Saturday evening in Minnesota having won big in the series opener on Friday by a 10-1 score. The Mariners will send lefty Ariel Miranda (5-1) out to face Minnesota right-hander Tyler Duffey (8-11). But the weekend started with some big Mariners news off the field, when the team on Friday suspended catcher Steve Clevenger for the rest of the season, without pay. Clevenger, who was already on the 60-day disabled list with a broken right hand, sent out a pair of Tweets on Thursday that were critical of Black Lives Matter protestors in Charlotte and of President Obama.
"As soon as we became aware of the tweets posted by Steve yesterday, we began to examine all of our options in regard to his standing on the team," said Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto in a statement on Friday. "Today we have informed him that he is suspended for the remainder of the season without pay."
It’s an unnecessary sideshow for a Mariners team still in the thick of the wild-card race, but needing to leapfrog at least two teams to get to the postseason. But after manager Scott Servais addressed the team about the Clevenger situation on Friday, the Seattle players say they’re focused on the task at hand.
"The only thing we care about is what we can do on the field," said designated hitter Nelson Cruz. "Don’t worry about what’s going on outside the lines, and we’ll be all right."
For Minnesota, pretty much nothing inside the white lines is going right lately. The season was lost weeks ago, and the Twins are limping to the offseason having dropped seven in a row. With 99 losses, they’re likely to have just the second triple-digit loss season in franchise history.
"I think we just need to forget about what’s happened here the last week or so," said pitcher Tommy Milone after Friday’s blowout. "Obviously we know that things haven’t been good. I guess we just have to forget about it, go out there. We know that we’re a better team than the way we’re playing. It’s easier said than done, so obviously you can look back and just really kind of dwell on it. But I think we really need to dig down and use these last eight games and kind of see what we’re made of and go after them."
The Twins also lost 99 games in 2011 (63-99) and are currently at risk of recording the most losses in franchise history. The 1982 Twins went 60-102 in their first season in the Metrodome, but the lineup featured a core of young players who would make up the nucleus of the franchise’s first World Series title five years later.