It likely would have surprised few in baseball that the reigning World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers would be heading into a series in the third full week of April in first place in the National League West.
But what if they were told they’d be playing the American League West leaders … in Seattle?
The two-game interleague series between the Dodgers and Mariners will begin Monday night at T-Mobile Park.
The Mariners regained sole possession of first place in their division as six pitchers combined for a one-hitter Sunday in a 7-2 victory against Houston. Seattle took two of three games from the Astros, who had their three-year reign atop the AL West halted in last year’s pandemic-shortened season.
“Oh, it’s huge,” Mariners right fielder Mitch Haniger said. “A series win against anybody is what you want, but definitely over the Astros. They are a perennial team that usually finishes first or second in the division it seems like every year. So it’s big. Going out and taking two of three from them at home. It sets the tone.”
Actually, it’s been Haniger setting the tone for the M’s.
After missing most of the past two seasons with injuries, Haniger has returned to his All-Star form of 2018. He’s batting .338 from the leadoff spot with four homers, 14 RBIs and an on base-plus-slugging percentage of .988.
On Sunday, Haniger had a go-ahead, two-run triple and later added a run-scoring double to help the Mariners gain their fourth win in their past five games.
Haniger also scored twice, as No. 2 hitter Ty France homered and had three RBIs.
“Guys don’t want to pitch to Mitch, so hopefully they’ll pitch to me,” France said. “We’re feeding off each other well right now.”
The Mariners bounced back from a 1-0 loss to Houston on Saturday.
“Awesome series,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Our guys, after getting shut out last night by (Zack) Greinke, I thought they really responded.”
The Mariners might be catching the Dodgers at the right time. Seattle won’t have to face Los Angeles’ three aces — Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler or Trevor Bauer — in this series, and the Dodgers might be in for a letdown after their eight-game winning streak ended with a 5-2 loss Sunday in San Diego. The Dodgers still took two of three games in the highly charged series.
“It was a good series,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Every series you go into, you try to win the series — and we did that. I liked the energy, I like the way we competed. We got beat, and that’s going to happen.”
Mariners left-hander Justus Sheffield (0-1, 4.91 ERA) is scheduled to start Monday night against Dodgers right-hander Dustin May (1-0, 1.74). Neither pitcher has faced their opponent before.
Los Angeles’ Chris Taylor, who started his career with the Mariners, hit a 443-foot home run in the second inning Sunday, but the Dodgers went 1-for-25 with 13 strikeouts after that.
“(The San Diego pitching staff) executed well, and we weren’t able to string a few good at-bats late to do what we needed to,” Taylor said.
–Field Level Media