Blue Jays face Mariners in home away from home (Jun 09, 2017)
SEATTLE -- The Seattle Mariners will conclude an 11-game homestand this weekend with a three-game series against Toronto, starting Friday.
Of course, when the Blue Jays come to town, it can sometimes feel like Rogers Centre West instead of Safeco Field.
"A lot of fans, a lot of energy," said Mariners left-hander James Paxton, a native of Ladner, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver. "It feels a little bit like a road series."
Paxton understands the situation, as he traveled south to Seattle to attend major league games when he was a youngster. He is proud of his Canadian heritage, as he sports a maple leaf tattoo on his right forearm. Teammates have nicknamed him the "Big Maple."
"It's their only chance to see a Canadian team," Paxton said of fans who make the trip from north of the border. "They plan for it early in the season."
Mariners manager Scott Servais got his first taste of that last September, when the Blue Jays came to town and both teams were in the playoff chase.
"The thing I noticed last year was when they stand up for the national anthem," Servais said. "I turned to Tim Bogar, our bench coach, and said, 'There are a lot of people here and they're not rooting for us.' (Canadians) on the West Coast like to see their Blue Jays."
Minnesota Twins manager Paul Molitor, who spent three seasons of his 21-year, Hall of Fame career with the Blue Jays, saw that happen often.
"Toronto is the national team up there, especially with the Expos gone (to Washington, D.C.)," Molitor said. "Whatever time zone you're in, fans in that province seem to migrate, whether it's to Seattle or Minnesota or Detroit. I remember some games in the Kingdome that they came down and provided a lot of support."
Paxton, who is scheduled to start the series finale Sunday, said members of his family are now Mariners fans.
"I do have some friends who are Blue Jays fans, but they say when I pitch against them they turn into Mariners fans," he said.
Rookie Mariners right-hander Sam Gaviglio (2-1, 3.13 ERA) is set to start the series opener. Gaviglio made his major league debut on May 11 in Toronto, pitching two innings of relief and allowing one run.
The Blue Jays (29-31) will counter with right-hander Joe Biagini (1-4, 3.31). Biagini started and pitched five shutout innings against the Mariners in a 4-0 victory on May 12 as the Blue Jays swept a four-game series. Biagini made three relief appearances, spanning 3 2/3 innings, against the Mariners as a rookie last season and didn't allow a run.
The Mariners (30-31), who failed in their bid to surpass the .500 mark for the first time this season when they lost 2-1 Thursday to Minnesota, hope to have designated hitter Nelson Cruz back in the lineup Friday.
Cruz, who is batting .299 with a team-high 14 home runs and 46 RBIs (tied for the American League lead), missed the past two games due to a right calf injury. He said an MRI showed "a little tear" in the calf.
"It's something I can manage," Cruz said.