Mariners visit Angels with time running out
The Seattle Mariners seem to have run out of time in their quest to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
They've lost four of their past five games to fall 9 1/2 games back of the second wild-card spot in the American League.
Seattle has 17 games left heading into its series opener Thursday night against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium.
The Mariners (79-66) had a three-game lead over the Oakland A's for the second wild-card position at the All-Star break, but Oakland has surged past the Mariners with a 34-15 mark in the second half.
Seattle is 21-27 since the All-Star break.
"The second half of the season has been very poor," Seattle manager Scott Servais told the Tacoma News Tribune after a 5-4 loss to the San Diego Padres on Wednesday. "It's focus. It's being prepared and ready to come with an edge to your game every day, and that is a personal pride matter."
The Angels (73-73) are playing better of late. They've won six of their past seven to get back to .500. They lost six of the first nine games against the Mariners this season before winning four of the past six.
The Angels are getting productive at-bats of late from some of their most inexperienced players.
Francisco Arcia hit two home runs in an 8-1 victory against the visiting Texas Rangers on Wednesday, and Jose Fernandez homered in a second straight game after hitting his first major league home run Tuesday.
"I just want to hit the ball and put it in play," Arcia told Fox Sports West after Wednesday's win. "I feel amazing. I try to do my job and play hard."
On Thursday, Mariners right-hander Mike Leake is scheduled to make his 29th start of the season and fifth against the Angels. He's 1-3 against Los Angeles this year with a 5.59 ERA.
Leake has made at least 30 starts in each of the past six seasons, a mark only reached by Ian Kennedy, Jon Lester and Max Scherzer in that span.
Leake (9-9, 4.11 ERA) made back-to-back starts against the Angels in July and neither went well.
He allowed four runs (three earned) and nine hits in four innings of a 7-4 loss in Seattle on July 4, and seven runs (five earned) and 12 hits in four innings of a 9-3 loss at Angel Stadium on July 10.
"They've just been aggressive," Leake told reporters after the second loss.
Leake got on a roll after the second game against the Angels, producing six consecutive quality starts from July 15 to Aug. 15.
Leake struggled in back-to-back outings against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland A's in late August, but was sharp in his most recent appearance, holding the Baltimore Orioles without an earned run over six innings in a 5-2 victory Sept. 5.
Leake, who was selected eighth overall in the 2009 draft, 17 spots in front of Angels center fielder Mike Trout, has a team-leading 18 quality starts this season.
Overall in his career against the Angels, he's 3-3 with a 4.05 ERA in six career starts.
The Angels plan to start Odrisamer Despaigne (2-2, 6.40) on Thursday and continue with a string of relievers, a tactic that worked well Tuesday against the visiting Texas Rangers. Eight relievers combined for a 1-0 victory, holding the Rangers without a hit for 7 1/3 innings.
Despaigne has not faced the Mariners this season, and he allowed one hit and no runs in one inning of relief in 2016 in his only career appearance against them.