TORONTO — Long reliever Tom Wilhelmsen plans to take his usual bullpen mind-set into his spot start Thursday in the Mariners’ road finale against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre.
“Pretty much," he said. “I don’t know anything different. Try to get strike one. I mean, it’s clearly different, but I’m not expected to go seven innings. I’m going to do what I did the last start. I felt fine after it.
“Hopefully, we can sneak a win in.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon opted for Wilhelmsen, who made one previous spot start just prior to the All-Star break, rather than send a struggling Chris Young back to the mound.
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Young is 12-9 overall with a 3.65 ERA but is 0-3 and has allowed 19 runs and 27 hits over 18 1/3 innings in his last five starts.
McClendon confirmed Monday that Young wouldn’t start but didn’t identify Wilhelmsen as the replacement until just prior to Wednesday’s batting practice.
Wilhelmsen hasn’t pitched longer than 1 1/3 innings, or faced more than six hitters, since a two-inning outing on Aug. 10 in a 4-2 victory over the White Sox at Safeco Field.
He hasn’t thrown more than 32 pitches in an appearance since July 18, when he threw 51 in four scoreless innings at Anaheim. That came in his first outing after going 2 2/3 innings in a July 10 start against Minnesota.
“In a best-case scenario,” Wilhelmsen said, “I face these guys one-through-nine (for three innings). Then if I feel good for the fourth, maybe I can do one-through-three again.”
McClendon previously mentioned the possibility of looking at Wilhelmsen as a starter for next year. Wilhelmsen said he hasn’t given that possibility any thought.
“Not yet,” he said. “We still have games here. That’s where my head and heart are right now.”
35 TIMES NINE
Second baseman Robinson Cano entered Wednesday’s game with 36 doubles and is the only player to have at least 35 doubles in each of the last nine seasons.
That’s a rare feat.
Only thee other players in Major League history have recorded nine straight seasons of 35-plus doubles.
Todd Helton set the record by doing it in 10 straight seasons from 1998-2007, and Bobby Abreu matched that by doing it from 1999-2008.
Hall of Famer Tris Speaker had nine straight seasons from 1919-27.
ERA CROWN, PART I
The Mariners’ recent implosion is threatening to cost them a chance to finish with the American League’s best earned-run average for only the second time in franchise history.
Entering Wednesday, the Mariners still held at the AL lead at 3.23, but Oakland was a close second at 3.25. The Mariners had a 3.04 ERA before surrendering 40 runs in 32 innings over the previous four games.
The 2001 Mariners led the AL with a 3.54 ERA at the height of the steroid era. Last year’s club ranked 13th among the 15 AL clubs with a 4.31 ERA.
ERA CROWN, PART II
Felix Hernandez’s rocky start Tuesday, when he allowed eight earned runs in 4 2/3 innings will, barring something remarkably unexpected, prevent him from winning the AL ERA crown for the second time in his career.
That outing boosted Hernandez’s ERA from 2.07 to 2.34. While that ranks second in the league, the new leader, Chicago lefty Chris Sale, stands at 2.17 after holding Detroit to one run in six innings on Thursday in a no-decision.
Sale isn’t expected to pitch again this season.
Hernandez is slotted to start Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Angels, but he would need to pitch 18 innings without an earned run to move ahead of Sale (assuming Sale doesn’t pitch again).
A career-best is still possible for Hernandez, who posted a 2.27 ERA when he won the ERA crown in 2010. He can beat that by pitching 7 1/3 innings Sunday without allowing an earned run.
The tentative pitching match-ups are set for the Mariners’ weekend series against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field, which marks the end of the regular season.
*Friday: Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (14-9 with a 3.54 ERA) vs. Angels right-hander Jered Weaver (18-8, 3.52) at 7:10 p.m.
*Saturday: Left-hander James Paxton (6-4, 3.03) vs. Angels right-hander Cory Rasmus (3-1, 2.38) at 6:10 p.m.
*Sunday: Right-hander Felix Hernandez (14-6, 2.34) vs. Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson (13-10, 4.61) at 1:10 p.m..
Outfielder James Jones turned 26 on Wednesday…Logan Morrison, prior to Wednesday’s game, was batting .329 this season (26-for-79) against left-handed pitchers…The Mariners played their 158th game Wednesday and started their 138th different lineup.
It was 22 years ago Thursday — Sept. 25, 1992 — that the Mariners and Rangers set a Major League record by using 54 players in a 16-inning game at Texas.
The Mariners used a club-record 29 players, including 11 pitchers, and won the game 4-3 on Omar Vizquel’s two-out RBI single in the 16th against Dan Smith. Brian Fisher got the final three outs.
The Mariners play their final regular-season road game when they conclude a four-game series against the Blue Jays at 1:07 p.m. Pacific time Thursday at the Rogers Centre.
Both clubs are starting relievers.
The Mariners will go with right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen (3-2 with a 2.10 ERA) because of Chris Young’s recent ineffectiveness. Toronto will start lefty Daniel Norris (0-0, 5.40) while Marcus Stroman serves his suspension.
Root Sports will televise the game.
The Mariners return home after the game and open the regular season’s final series, three games against the Los Angeles Angels, on Friday at Safeco Field.