Seattle Mariners

Mariners believe they have pieces now in place to make postseason push

The initial returns are erratic, but the Mariners are convinced their recent roster additions will provide a sufficient boost to generate a legitimate postseason push in the closing weeks.

“If we get a guy like Austin Jackson on the bases,” left fielder Dustin Ackley said, “that’s going to be a good thing. You’re probably going to see better pitches because he’s a threat on the bases. It just helps all around.”

It worked that way Saturday in a 6-3 victory at Baltimore, but the Mariners sandwiched that game with losses of 2-1 and 1-0 in the weekend series against the Orioles.

“We’re trying to get adjusted,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “Hopefully, in the next few games, we can start to piece that together. When we string together a few in a row, and get into a little bit of a groove, it will help a lot.”

The Mariners added Jackson and Chris Denorfia just prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Those moves came one week after reacquiring Kendrys Morales in a trade from Minnesota.

The result is a lineup that is far less lefty-reliant — Jackson and Denorfia are right-handed, while Morales is a switch-hitter. It also adds a legitimate leadoff hitter in Jackson, and a middle-of-the-order bat in Morales.

“Now, we can mix it up,” second baseman Robinson Cano said. “We’ve got Denorfia, and we all know he’s a gamer. I like him. You have Jackson, who is a righty. Now, we don’t have to have eight lefties in the lineup.

“Now, we can have three or four righties because Morales is a switch-hitter. It’s better now.”

Plus all three are veteran hitters after the Mariners spent much of the season’s first four months relying on rookies James Jones, Stefen Romero and Abraham Almonte.

“We still don’t have that big bopper in the middle of the order,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “but we’ve got a lot of professional hitters. Certainly having Jackson at the top of the order, this guy knows the strike zone.

“He’s not going to panic. I think he has a career .345 on-base percentage. He scores runs and gets hits. Kendrys has a nice track record as well. They can do some things. It stretches out your lineup.

“Adding Denorfia, that’s another guy who is a very professional hitter and has a real good track record. He’s not going to panic in big situations. I like our lineup.”

The Mariners made another recent addition by promoting shortstop Chris Taylor from Triple-A Tacoma. He is off to a 9-for-25 start and, if he keeps hitting, could soon push Brad Miller into a reserve role.

“I like what I see,” McClendon said. “He plays a pretty good shortstop. He handles himself at the plate pretty good. He has great instincts for the game. He’s doing a nice job.

“From what I saw in spring training, I thought he was a player who could handle the bat. I didn’t think he would be overmatched. He hasn’t disappointed.”

The Mariners, at 57-54, trail Toronto by two games in the race for the American League’s final wild-card spot as they prepare to open a nine-game homestand Tuesday with the first of two games against Atlanta.

They possess the majors’ best pitching staff, with a 3.05 ERA, but their attack ranks last in the league at 3.79 runs a game. Their bet going forward is even a modest improvement in run production could produce big results.

And while the Mariners lack what McClendon terms a “big bopper,” they do possess a legitimate star to anchor their lineup in Cano, who is batting .330 with a .393 on-base percentage despite mustering just eight homers.

“It does add a lot, from that mojo standpoint, to have that star in your lineup,” McClendon said. “Great players make other players better. I think Robinson Cano makes other players better in a lot of different respects.

“I think a lot of it starts with how you put the uniform on. Whether or not your chest is stuck out a little bit. ... Our guys are at a point now where they believe in what they’re doing. That takes you a long way.”

How far? We’ll find out over the next eight weeks.

TARGETING TORONTO

The Mariners plan to juggle their rotation in order to line up their top three starters — Felix Hernandez, Chris Young and Hisashi Iwakuma — to face Toronto in next week’s series at Safeco Field.

The Blue Jays (60-53) lead the chase for the American League’s final wild-card spot, entering Monday, by 11/2 games over Kansas City (57-53) and the New York Yankees (57-53) and by two games over the Mariners (57-54).

The switch means each starter except Iwakuma will get extra rest after their next start. It also means the Mariners are now listing Sunday’s starter for the series finale against the Chicago White Sox as “to be announced.”

The Mariners will likely recall a starter from Triple-A Tacoma to start Sunday. Right-hander Taijuan Walker, who started Monday, appears best in line, although right-hander Erasmo Ramirez is also an option.

The revised rotation lines up this way: Hernandez and Young will start Tuesday and Wednesday against Atlanta. Then Roenis Elias, Iwakuma and James Paxton will start Thursday through Saturday against the White Sox.

After Sunday, the Mariners will have Hernandez, Young and Iwakuma lined up to face the Blue Jays.

MINOR AWARDS

Pulaski right-hander Ricardo Pereira was selected as the pitcher of the week in the Rookie Appalachian League for July 28 to Aug. 4.

Pereira, 23, pitched 112/3 scoreless innings in two starts while striking out 12, allowing eight hits and two walks. He made four relief appearances at Short-A Everett before being reassigned in late June to Pulaski.

The Mariners signed Pereira, a Venezuelan native, in 2008 as a non-drafted free agent. He is a combined 3-4 this season with a 2.64 ERA in 441/3 innings over 12 games.

ON TAP

The Mariners open a two-game series against Atlanta at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (11-3, 2.01 ERA) will oppose Braves lefty Alex Wood (7-8, 3.30).

Root Sports will broadcast the game.

The series concludes at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday. The Mariners then open a four-game series against the Chicago White Sox before concluding the homestand with three games against Toronto.

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com

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