Way back in April, this Mariners-Angels series figured to be a huge matchup with major playoff implications. But the M’s playoff aspirations expired months ago, while the Angels are in dire straits, five games under .500 (63-68) and 10 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the AL West. The Angels have lost three in a row, six of their last seven, and 10 of their last 13.
Here are today’s lineups:
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Howard Kendrick 2B
Bobby Abreu LF
Torii Hunter RF
Hideki Matsui DH
Juan Rivera 1B
Erick Aybar SS
Jeff Mathis C
Peter Bourjos CF
Ervin Santana RHP (13-9, 4.13)
Chone Figgins 2B
Russell Branyan DH
Jose Lopez 3B
Casey Kotchman 1B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Michael Saunders LF
Adam Moore C
Josh Wilson SS
David Pauley RHP (2-5, 4.02)
Michael Saunders is back in the lineup for the first time since Aug. 21, having been shut down to rest a bruised right shoulder incurred when he ran into the wall attempting a catch at Safeco on Aug. 5 against the Rangers.
Saunders hit off a tee Sunday with no problems, and also had no issues when taking early batting practice Monday, so Daren Brown put him in the lineup.
“I tried to turn it up a notch during BP and make it as game-like as possible and it felt great,” Saunders said. “I’m excited to get going.”
Saunders said he wouldn’t back down if a play required him to tackle the wall again.
“It’s something you can’t really think about it,” he said. “It’s not going to be in the back of my mind. I’m going to go out there and play hard. If there’s a play around the wall, then there’s a play around the wall. Hopefully, I’ll make the catch this time.”
Brown said he wants to give Saunders a lot of playing time the rest of the season.
“We need to see him. Obviously, that creates some problems with some other guys, but we’ll take that on a day-to-day basis and see what we can do. It’s a problem for me, but it’s a good problem trying to find ways to see everybody we want to see.”
Brown said the Mariners will delay the bulk of their September callups until Tacoma is done with its season. If the Rainiers make the playoffs and advance to the second of two rounds, that could extend their year until mid-September. The rosters can expand beginning Sept. 1, which is Wednesday.
“We’ve agreed that we’re going to wait until after the playoffs,” he said. “A lot of guys down there have played hard the whole year. I got to see most of it and I’m hoping they’ll be able to clinch this thing in the next four or five days and celebrate.”
The Mariners want their players to experience a playoff atmosphere.
“With young kids, and we do have a young group there, it’s good to be in that type atmosphere, in a playoff-type atmosphere where a little more is on the line,” Brown said. “You may see them step up a little more or you may see them go back a little bit. But I think it’s good to see that.”
Brown wouldn’t reveal how many players the Mariners would call up.