Mariners face D-backs, hoping to gain ground in playoff chase

MLB

The Seattle Mariners begin a rare visit to the desert Friday when they take on the Arizona Diamondbacks in the opener of a three-game series at Chase Field in Phoenix.

The rebuilding Mariners (19-24) have played themselves into the hunt for both second place in the American League West, which comes with a postseason berth, and the second American League wild-card spot. They’re only two games behind the Houston Astros in the division and three behind the New York Yankees for the wild card, with 17 games left on the Seattle schedule.

The Mariners have lost two straight after a six-game winning streak, however.

“We’ve been playing very consistent. And our starting pitching, especially, has kept us in ballgames. It just got away from us a little bit, but these games happen,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told The Seattle Times after a 10-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants Wednesday. “Over the course of a season, you are going to have a few clunkers, and that’s what (Wednesday) was, so we’re disappointed. We’ll regroup and get after it in Arizona.”

In the 16 games prior to Wednesday, the Mariners had been averaging better than five runs per game.

Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (2-2, 5.23 ERA) is set to make his seventh start of the season on Friday. He’ll be facing the Diamondbacks in a regular season game for the first time in his career.

The two teams haven’t faced each other since a three-game series in August 2018, when Seattle won twice. Arizona has won six of the last nine meetings, but the Mariners are 16-11 all-time against the Diamondbacks.

Kikuchi has won his last two starts and hasn’t walked a batter while striking out 13 in his last 11 innings pitched. The only current Diamondbacks player he’s ever faced is Kole Calhoun, whose two hits in six at-bats against Kikuchi are solo home runs.

Like the Mariners, the Diamondbacks have a number of new faces after the recent trade deadline and other roster moves. One of those moves was designating one-time All Star and Seattle native Jake Lamb for assignment on Thursday, after Lamb’s 596 career regular season games with Arizona over seven seasons.

Arizona (16-29) avoided being swept in a three-game series with Thursday night’s 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the Diamondbacks have lost 18 of their last 21 games.

“It’s been a tough go the last how many games, but it felt good to get the ‘W,'” catcher Carson Kelly said. “You never know what’s going to happen, so we’re going to take this into (Friday) and hopefully get on a roll.”

The Diamondbacks had lost five straight prior to Thursday.

“We’ve lacked energizing moments that keep us rolling throughout the course of nine innings,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said, “but our intent is always very good, it just seems to back up on us whenever we fall behind.”

Twenty-nine-year-old right-hander Caleb Smith, expected to be reinstated from the 10-day injured list Friday, is in line to make his Diamondbacks debut. His last start came as a member of the Miami Marlins on July 25, when he pitched three innings and allowed a run on one hit with six walks and three strikeouts against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Smith (0-0) was part of the trade with Miami that sent Starling Marte to the Marlins on Aug. 31.

–Field Level Media

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