CHICAGO — After back-to-back series against teams all but out of postseason contention, the Chicago White Sox host a Seattle Mariners team with much more at stake.
The Mariners (67-59) open a four-game weekend series at U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday three games outside of an American League wild card spot following Wednesday's 5-0 loss to the New York Yankees.
Seattle had been among the hottest teams in baseball with 15 wins in 20 games before cooling off a bit this week with back-to-back losses to the Yankees at Safeco Field.
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Chicago right-hander Anthony Ranaudo (1-1, 9.42 ERA) works against a Mariners pitcher yet to be named in Thursday's series opener. On Friday, right-hander Felix Hernandez (8-4, 3.26) meets White Sox lefty Chris Sale (15-6, 3.15).
Seattle claimed two wins over Chicago in a three-game home series last month.
The Mariners hope to have third baseman Kyle Seager back for the series. He sat out Wednesday after fouling a ball off his foot on Tuesday. Initial X-rays were reported to be negative. Seager has 24 home runs and 83 RBIs this season.
Robinson Cano needs one double for 30 this season. He has exceeded that total in each of his first 11 seasons.
Seattle has a shot at reclaiming the AL West lead. The Mariners topped the division through most of May before struggling over the next two months and started August at .500 (52-52) and in third place.
They are 6 1/2 games behind first-place Texas and have seven head-to-head games remaining with the Rangers in an 11-day stretch starting next Monday.
Chicago (60-65) has played better of late, taking two of three from Oakland last weekend and splitting two games with visiting Philadelphia this week.
Over a three-game winning streak through Tuesday, Chicago pitchers had allowed only five runs while 1B/DH Jose Abreu has homered in each.
But like the Athletics and Phillies, the White Sox are also playing out the string after beginning the season 23-10.
With less than five weeks left in the regular season, speculation is rising about postseason shakeups ranging from the departure of manager Robin Ventura and front office personnel to major trades including ace left-hander Chris Sale and right-hander Jose Quintana.
“We've got to get some things together,” White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams told reporters this week. “As everyone knows by now, we started off very well. Unfortunately things kind of unraveled and we lost some key members of our bullpen which didn't help and kind of spearheaded that unraveling.”
Not even the ballpark is being spared.
The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, owner of the White Sox home field, announced a 13-year naming rights agreement with a Chicago-based mortgage company Wednesday. The park's name changes from U.S. Cellular Field to Guaranteed Rate Field on Nov. 1. Terms were not disclosed.