Mariners’ direction could be determined during Athletics’ visit

Field Level Media

July 22, 2021 at 1:17 am.

The next seven days likely will determine whether the Seattle Mariners are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.

The Mariners, who are third in both the American League West, welcome the top two teams in the division to T-Mobile Park, with four games against the Oakland Athletics starting Thursday followed by a three-game series with the division-leading Houston Astros.

“We’ll do the right thing for the team, and we will always weigh the present with the future,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said last week. “The present means something to us because the team is playing incredibly well, and if we have the ability to help the team in the short term, we’ll do that.”

Just don’t expect the Mariners to mortgage their future for a 2021 run, despite this being the 20th anniversary of their last postseason berth, the longest drought in the four major professional sports.

“The one thing we’re unlikely to do is to subtract in a major way from our long-term (goal) because that is why we’ve gone through this for the last two years,” Dipoto said. “It’s starting to bear some fruit. We will be aggressive and try to find some help, but don’t know how realistic that is until we really dive into that.”

Mariners right-hander Chris Flexen (9-3, 3.35 ERA), who is scheduled to start Thursday against Oakland, is the only member of the team’s season-opening, six-man rotation who hasn’t been placed on the injured list — although lefty Yusei Kikuchi didn’t miss any time when he was placed on the COVID-19 list at the All-Star break.

The Mariners were forced to go with a bullpen game in a 6-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday afternoon in Denver, but they might have found their fifth starter. Right-hander Darren McCaughan, making his major league debut, pitched five hitless innings of relief after reliever Keynan Middleton gave up five runs in the first inning.

Flexen has been outstanding at home, posting a 6-2 record with a 1.76 ERA in 10 starts.

One of those losses came to the A’s, however, when he matched up against Oakland left-hander Sean Manaea (6-6, 3.28 ERA).

Manaea pitched a four-hit shutout with eight strikeouts in a 6-0 victory June 2 at Seattle, while Flexen allowed five runs on seven hits in six innings in his lone appearance against the A’s. Manaea is 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 13 career starts against Seattle.

The A’s had Wednesday off after sweeping a two-game series at home with the Los Angeles Angels, allowing just one run in the process.

Oakland infielder Jacob Wilson, just shy of his 31st birthday, made his major league debut and got his first hit Tuesday in the Athletics’ 6-0 victory.

“To go out and get the first hit out of the way, words don’t really describe the feeling you get from that,” said Wilson, who was signed by the A’s last winter. “At my age and as long as I’ve played with no big-league time, I didn’t know what opportunities were going to be available to me, so to get that phone call and be able to sign with Oakland this offseason was a big relief.”