Surging Mariners look to extend playoff push vs. Angels

Field Level Media

October 01, 2021 at 8:00 am.

The Seattle Mariners won’t have to face Shohei Ohtani the pitcher this weekend as they attempt to secure their first postseason appearance since 2001.

They still have to deal with Ohtani the hitter, though.

The three-game series between the Los Angeles Angels and the Mariners gets underway Friday night in Seattle.

The Mariners (89-70) and the Boston Red Sox (89-70) are tied for the American League’s second and final wild-card berth. Both teams are two games behind the New York Yankees (91-68), who hold the top AL wild-card spot, and one game in front of the Toronto Blue Jays (88-71).

The Red Sox close with three road games against the Washington Nationals. The Blue Jays will play host to the Baltimore Orioles, and the Yankees will be at home to face the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Angels (75-84) have lost 10 of their past 13 games, including a 7-6 defeat to the host Texas Rangers on Thursday.

Angels manager Joe Maddon announced Wednesday that Ohtani was being shut down from pitching and wouldn’t start the season finale Sunday.

“Just talking with him, he just felt it was the right time to shut ‘er down, so that’s what we’re going to do,” Maddon said. “It’s really not complicated. We’re just going to have him focus on his hitting the rest of the year and not worry about pitching.

“He finished with two really strong outings, and there’s nothing to really gain right now, so it’s probably best to not pitch him. And again, this came from a conversation with him.”

Ohtani, the two-way sensation who is the front-runner for the AL Most Valuable Player award, finished 9-2 on the mound with a 3.18 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 130 1/3 innings.

“I haven’t do-+ne a full postmortem thing, but superficially, my gosh, what he’s done has never been done before,” Maddon said. “We’ve talked about it a thousand times. And to finish as strongly as he did in 130 innings, this could not have worked out any better.”

Ohtani is batting .259 with 45 home runs and 99 RBIs. On Wednesday, he became just the second player in AL history to reach 45 homers and 25 stolen bases in a single season, joining Toronto’s Jose Canseco (1998).

“This is the first year of a lot of groundbreaking stuff by him, and I think it’s going to continue,” Maddon said. “The guy is really driven. He takes care of himself perfectly, and he’s going to keep getting better as he understands what people are trying to do to him.”

The Mariners are seeking to snap the longest postseason drought in the four major professional sports, having last reached the playoffs in 2001.

“We’ve just played 13 consecutive days at a point in the season where everybody’s dragging, and we won 11 of those games,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “Unbelievable effort by our guys. I’m so, so proud of them.

“This is fun. This is the way baseball is supposed to be at this time of year, and we’ve still got a lot of big, big games ahead of us.”

Mariners left-hander Marco Gonzales (10-5, 4.00 ERA), who has won his past nine decisions, is scheduled to start the series opener against Angels lefty Jose Suarez (7-8, 3.86).

Gonzales is 9-1 with a 3.46 ERA in 17 career starts against Los Angeles. He is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in two starts vs. the Angels this season, beating them 5-1 on Sunday after allowing one run and fanning five in seven innings. Gonzales kept pace with Ohtani (seven innings, one run, 10 strikeouts) before the Mariners took advantage of the Los Angeles bullpen.

Suarez is 2-1 with a 4.61 ERA in six career appearances against Seattle, including five starts. Three of those have come this season, during which he went 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA. On Sept. 24, Suarez got a no-decision after yielding four runs on five hits in five-plus innings.