Thursday wasn’t just an open date for the Mariners midway through a 12-game trip that spans four cities. It was also a great day in their quest to gain one of the American League’s two wild-card spots.
New York, Minnesota, Los Angeles and Kansas City all lost.
As a result, the Mariners (65-63) are just one-half game behind the Twins for the final wild-card spot as they open a three-game weekend series Friday against the Yankees in New York.
The Yankees (68-58) hold the top wild-card spot by 3 1/2 games over the Twins — and four games over the Mariners, who are tied with the Angels and Royals (both also 65-63). Texas is one-half game further back at 64-63.
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Tampa Bay (63-66) and Baltimore (62-65) are three games behind the Twins.
So it’s tight.
There are no unimportant games at this point, but the Mariners’ next six games — three in New York and then three in Baltimore — are the last remaining obstacles to Sept. 1, which is when reinforcements can arrive on a full-time basis instead of shuttling between the big leagues and Triple-A Tacoma.
Major League rules permit clubs to expand their rosters to 40 players as of Sept. 1, and the Mariners are likely to several arms to an overtaxed bullpen that continues to bail out a injury-depleted rotation.
The Mariners are 22-11 in one-run games, which is the best record in the majors. The biggest reason for that is their bullpen.
"There are a lot of different ways to get to one-run games," manager Scott Servais said. "It seems like in many of those games we have had more than a one-run lead, and the other team has gotten to the brink.
"You always have to attribute that to your bullpen. Getting those final six or nine outs, which is always tough, our guys have done a great job."
The Mariners also remain hopeful that James Paxton and Felix Hernandez can return to the rotation in early September from the disabled list.
First, though, they have three games against the Yankees, who won three of four last month on a visit to Safeco Field.
***The status of second baseman Robinson Cano remains uncertain. He underwent an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) exam Thursday after leaving Thursday’s game in Atlanta because of tightness in his left hamstring.
***Left-hander Ariel Miranda (8-6 with a 4.78 ERA) broke a seven-start winless streak last Saturday at Tampa Bay. He’ll face Yankees veteran ace CC Sabathia (10-5, 3.99) at 4:05 p.m. Pacific time Friday in the series opener.
***It’s not yet known yet whether the fallout from the Yankees’ big brawl Thursday in Detroit will have any effect on the weekend series. Catcher Andrew Romine and pitchers Tommy Kahnle and Dellin Betances were ejected. Catcher Gary Sanchez threw several punches that went unnoticed by the umpiring crew but seem likely to draw an MLB response.
***Sanchez is batting .354 with nine homers and 21 RBIs in his last 12 games.
***Miranda’s only previous appearance against the Yankees was July 22 when he was positioned for a victory after allowing two runs in 5 1/3 innings. He settled for a no-decision, although the Mariners won the game in extra innings.
***In case you’re wondering, the initials that Sabathia uses for his first name is short for Carsten Charles. Sabathia is 14-6 with a 2.62 ERA in 27 career starts against the Mariners.
***The series features the AL leader in RBIs (Nelson Cruz with 100) and home runs (New York outfielder Aaron Judge with 37).
***Four Mariners have at least 20 career at-bats against Sabathia: Danny Valencia is 8-for-33, Cruz is 8-for-30, Cano is 5-for-20, and Kyle Seager is 3-for-20.
***Seager needs one double to reach 30 and one homer to reach 20. Assuming he gets them, it will be the fifth 30-20 season of his career, which only two other players in franchise history achieved: Edgar Martinez (seven times), and Ken Griffey Jr. (five times).
***The Mariners have won 18 of their last 25 road games and are 7-0-1 in their last eight road series.
It was 27 years ago Friday — Aug. 25, 1990 — that Edgar Martinez stole home in the seventh inning of a 6-3 victory at Kansas City.
It was part of double steal. Ken Griffey Jr. stole second, which provided the opportunity for Martinez to steal home. It was Martinez’s only steal of the season.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners