Happ aiming for 20 wins as Blue Jays visit Mariners
SEATTLE — The Toronto Blue Jays got another huge crowd cheering for them at Safeco Field on Monday night, and they rewarded the Canadian fans with a 3-2 win over the Seattle Mariners.
Toronto already turned the Mariners' home field into Canada South, and now the Blue Jays want to inflict further damage by knocking Seattle further back in the American League wild-card hunt.
The Blue Jays (82-68) are currently tied with Baltimore atop the wild-card standings, with Seattle trailing by three games. A win Tuesday could really put the Mariners (79-71) in a bad spot with just 11 games left on the schedule.
“We've got to keep playing; that's what our schedule says,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said after Monday's loss. “And we play the same team (Tuesday), and they're the team ahead of us.”
The Blue Jays were celebrating after winning the first game of the series, and they gave the fans who traveled south a lot of the credit.
“It's incredible,” center fielder Kevin Pillar said of the pro-Blue Jays atmosphere that comes from thousands of Canadians from British Columbia heading south for the annual series. “The best way to describe it is overwhelming. It's emotional. … Not to knock our fans at home, but when it's the only three games our Canadian fans are going to see all year, it's just a different energy.”
Starter Marco Estrada, who flirted with a no-hitter before giving up a leadoff single in the seventh inning, echoed those sentiments.
“We felt like we were the home team,” he said after a one-hit performance over seven innings. “And it's something we can build off of.”
One-time Mariner (and three-time Blue Jay) J.A. Happ is scheduled to be on the mound for Toronto. Happ began last season with Seattle but was traded to Pittsburgh midway through the year. He re-signed with the Blue Jays in the offseason and is having a career year at the age of 33. Happ (19-4) goes into Tuesday seeking the first 20-win season of his career.
Seattle will counter with dependable veteran Hisashi Iwakuma, who leads the team with 16 wins — also a career high. Iwakuma was the Mariners' best starter for the first four months of the season but stumbled down the stretch in August. The 35-year-old right-hander has rebounded to win each of his past two starts.
Iwakuma might be pitching at home, but he'll be in a somewhat unfamiliar environment. The thousands of Canadian fans have made sure the Blue Jays feel right at home in Seattle's stadium.
The hometown feel gave the Blue Jays a lift Monday night, and now the AL wild-card leaders are hoping to build off that win and keep rewarding the visiting fans.
“We really needed this,” Estrada said after the Blue Jays snapped their two-game losing streak Monday night. “We just have to build off this and keep it going.”