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August 25, 2007 at 8:19 AM

Playoff pace

Can you smell the post-season yet? The Mariners opened up a three-game lead on the New York Yankees last night. Seattle beat the Texas Rangers, then waited until the middle of the night to see the Detroit Tigers finally beat the New York Yankees in extra innings.
No, it’s not even Sept. 1 and lots can still happen. But being three up in the wild-card? Heck, the M’s will grab that and run. It doesn’t get much better.
The M’s could not catch the Los Angeles Angels, who prevailed 3-0 over Toronto despite a complete-game, five-hitter tossed by Roy Halladay. This is what a playoff pace is all about. Seattle is driving the Angels nuts by going 19-7 over the last 26 games. Remember way back earlier in the year, when we discussed how contenders tend to sweep series and win big block of games, like 10 of 15, or 15 of 20? Well, that’s exactly what the contending M’s are now doing. What they have to keep doing. Imagine how bad off the Mariners would be if they’d gone, say, 14-12 over that stretch? It would be “respectable” to be winning. But it would have relegated the M’s to the outside looking in. How in the world are the Tigers already five game back of Seattle? Can’t maintain the pace, that’s how. Though that Detroit win last night helps the M’s cause.
Remember though, the M’s still have two huge series beginning in less than two weeks in New York and Detroit. Lots can happen. By opening up some ground on both the Yanks and Tigers, the M’s are mitigating the potential damage that can be done to them in those series. They are also raising the possibility of burying both those teams with series victories. Keep the same gap that now exists and Seattle would lead New York by four and Detroit by six with series wins in both places. I wouldn’t like the odds of making up that ground with three weeks to go if I was either Mariners opponent.
Some of you asked me about Chone Figgins and whether he’ll be playing in Seattle next week. Here is an update. Has trouble batting right handed, which the switch-hitter does when facing a lfety, but he’ll catch a break at Safeco Field in that he faces three righties in Miguel Batista, Jeff Weaver and Felix Hernandez.
So, here we are. Another day, another Mariners shot at first place. This could be another of those hurdle nights to overcome, though, with Horacio Ramirez taking the hill. Remember, the M’s have already had to come from behind in each of the first two nights here. They cannot afford to be trailing by a bunch early on. Ramirez got some huge early run support in Minneapolis earlier this week. It will be interesting to see what happens tonight if the trend from the first two games of this series — not a lot of Seattle offense — continues.
Ramirez gave up eight runs on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings his last time pitching in Texas. The Rangers are hitting .360 off him in a pair of starts this season. Seattle needs a start like the one he had against the Twins his last time out. As we’ve seen, it’s a brutal pace that must be maintained to gain any ground. No more room for giveaways.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins

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