SEATTLE -- In their only six games played against non-playoff contenders since the All-Star break, the Seattle Mariners went 5-1 while inching back into the postseason picture.
That might be a good omen for a team that is about to see the softest part of its schedule.
The Mariners (59-53) have one more game against a fellow wild-card hopeful, the Detroit Tigers (61-52), before embarking on a 16-game stretch that features five opponents all at or below the .500 mark.
The Oakland A's, Los Angeles Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox have already shipped off high-end talent such as Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Beltran, Jonathan Lucroy, Rich Hill and Josh Reddick, so Seattle might have a chance to make a move in the wild-card race.
Before any of that can happen, the Mariners play the final game of a Detroit series that could affect the AL playoff picture.
Seattle took the first two games of the series, including a memorable, 15-inning marathon that lasted 4 hours, 51 minutes on Tuesday night. Both teams were so strapped for pitchers that they had to use a starter in the extra frames, and the bullpens won't have many arms available for Wednesday.
The Mariners gave up a run in the top of the 15th inning Tuesday, then scored twice in the bottom of the inning for a 6-5 win.
"That was crazy," Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager said after the Mariners rallied twice to win their fifth consecutive game -- a season-best streak.
The final game of the series features two of the game's greatest pitchers of the past decade.
Detroit right-hander Justin Verlander (12-6, 3.52 ERA) and Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez (6-4, 3.55 ERA) have combined for 17 Opening Day starts, 2,321 strikeouts, 12 All-Star appearances and two Cy Young Awards -- but they have pitched in the same game only twice, each earning a win over the other. The last time they squared off was in April 2009, when Verlander and the Tigers beat the Mariners 6-3.
Hernandez, 30, goes into the game with a little bit of momentum after rebounding from a rough first inning to pitch eight innings his last time out, Friday against the Angels. He is starting to round into form after a stint on the disabled list from May 28-July 19.
Verlander, meanwhile, is pitching as he did in his prime. Over his past seven starts, the 33-year-old veteran is 5-0 with a 1.85 ERA.
Verlander is always amped to pitch against fellow aces.
"Whether it's him versus (the New York Mets' Noah) Syndergaard or him versus Chris Sale (of the White Sox), his concentration goes up to another notch," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said after Verlander outdueled Syndergaard on Friday. "He wants to beat that guy. Even though they don't actually face each other in the American League, he wants to beat that guy or walk off the field with the lead."
Both starters will have even more on their shoulders as a pair of overworked bullpens try to piece it together for the final game of the series. Both teams ended up using eight pitchers in Tuesday's game. Every available bullpen arm pitched at least one inning -- except Tigers closer Felix Rodriguez, who got just two outs while allowing the tying and winning runs in the 15th.