Mariners-Blue Jays preview
TORONTO — It will be the beginning of a reunion weekend of sorts when the Seattle Mariners open a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.
Mariners first baseman Adam Lind, who spent his first nine seasons with Toronto, will be returning to Rogers Centre for the first time as a player since being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers before the 2015 campaign.
Blue Jays left fielder Michael Saunders, who was acquired from the Mariners in a deal before the 2015 season that sent J.A. Happ to Seattle, will be making his first appearance against his former team.
Happ, who was traded by the Mariners to the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 31 last season, is scheduled to start the series finale on Sunday.
This will not Lind's first trip back to Toronto, however.
“My wife's from there,” Lind told the Tacoma News Tribune, “and I own some property there. So I've been back.”
He also has been back to Rogers Centre.
“I was on the field last year around Christmas for Disney on Ice,” Lind said, “… I was just watching but I saw all the same people who work there, you know. I got to see the security guards for the clubhouse and people like that.”
Lind has 15 homers and 43 RBIs in 76 games with Seattle, while hitting .231/.264/.449. “Well, my batting average stinks,” he said. “My on-base percentage stinks. I'd say the other numbers are adequate.”
Lind has two of Seattle's league-leading six walk-off homers this season.
When the Blue Jays traded Lind after the 2014 season, they acquired right-handed pitcher Marco Estrada from the Brewers. He has developed into one the better starters in the majors and was selected to pitch in the All-Star Game before he went on the disabled list with a sore back.
Estrada (5-3, 2.93 ERA) will be activated from the disabled list to get the nod on Friday after missing his final start before the All-Star break. He is 0-2 with a 7.35 ERA in his two career starts against Seattle.
When Estrada was asked how his back felt, he said, “Good enough.”
He will be facing Seattle left-hander James Paxton (2-4, 4.56 ERA) of Ladner, B.C., who will be making the third career start in his native country on Friday. He was the winning pitcher in a 3-2 victory in 2015 when he allowed two runs in six innings. In 2014, he allowed eight runs in 2 2/3 frames in a 14-4 loss. He is 1-1 with a 10.38 ERA in his two starts against the Blue Jays, both at Toronto.
The Blue Jays are 3-2 since the All-Star break, winning three in a row to complete a five-game trip to Oakland and Arizona after dropping the first two contests to the Athletics. The Blue Jays have won seven of their past 10 games.
“Early on, you're trying to get back to playing,” Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “Some guys had some days off, get back in the flow of things and we were able to take it back up pretty quick. We didn't play bad in Oakland. We lost two games, but they won those games. We didn't give those games to them.
“It's nice to finish strong here and we're going to have a pretty good homestand, so hopefully it continues.”
Donaldson, who was in the All-Star Game, batted .381 (8-for-21) with one homer and seven RBIs on the five-game trip, the only contests the Blue Jays will play on the road in July.
The Mariners are 5-5 in their past 10 after a walk-off win over the Chicago White Sox Wednesday at Safeco Field. They are 48-47, third in the AL West.
The Blue Jays were forced to play infielder Darwin Barney in left field on Wednesday when Saunders, who also was in the All-Star Game, returned to Toronto for a personal issue and Ezequiel Carrera had a sore Achilles' tendon. Both are expected to be available on Friday.