Pause for a moment in assessing what has to happen over the next three weeks for the Mariners to reach postseason for the first time in 13 years.
Instead, look ahead to next year.
The Mariners and all other major-league clubs released their 2015 schedules Monday morning in a coordinated effort primarily designed to boost season-ticket sales.
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• The Mariners will open the season at home for the first time since 2008 when they play host to the Los Angeles Angels from April 6-8 at Safeco Field.
It’s just a three-game homestand, which is followed by a six-game trip — three at Oakland and then onto Los Angeles to play the Dodgers for the start of interleague play.
• The Mariners and other American League West clubs will play the National League West in interleague play.
For the Mariners, that means trips to the Dodger Stadium (three games, April 13-15), San Francisco (two games, June 15-16), San Diego (two games, June 30-July 1) and Colorado (three games, Aug. 3-5).
The 10 interleague home games are: two against San Diego (May 12-13), two against San Francisco (June 17-18), three against Arizona (July 27-29) and three against Colorado (Sept. 11-13).
• Note that the four games against the Giants are consecutive: June 15-16 in San Francisco and June 17-18 at Safeco Field.
• The New York Yankees make their first trip to Seattle without Derek Jeter since 1994 when they make a three-game visit from June 1-3 to Safeco Field.
• The Mariners’ only trip to New York is three games right after the All-Star break (July 17-19). The All-Star Game is July 14 at Cincinnati.
• The Mariners have six three-city trips, including two 10-game trips.
• Their longest homestand is 11 games from May 28 through June 7 with four games against Cleveland, three against the Yankees and four against Tampa Bay. The Mariners also have a 10-game homestand in September.
• The Mariners close the season with a six-game homestand: three against Houston from Sept. 28-30, and three against Oakland from Oct. 2-4.
• The month-by-month breakdown: April (12 home; 10 road); May (13 home, 15 road); June (15 home, 12 road); July (13 home, 14 road), August (12 home, 16 road); September-October (16 home, 14 road).
YOUNG STAYS IN ROTATION
Veteran right-hander Chris Young will remain in the Mariners’ rotation but will again get extra rest before his next start.
Manager Lloyd McClendon confirmed Young will start Sunday in the series finale against Oakland at Safeco Field. That will be eight days after his five-inning outing last Saturday at Texas.
“He’s healthy,” McClendon said. “I said before, the only criteria was whether or not he was healthy. He’s feeling good. I’m going to back him off a little bit to give him some extra rest. But he’s healthy and ready to go.”
Young jeopardized his spot in the rotation with two poor starts prior to his five innings in a 4-2 victory at Texas. That prompted concerns that he was tiring due to his heaviest workload since 2007.
“He gave us a chance to win a ballgame (in Texas),” McClendon said. “That’s how I judge things.”
LINING UP THE ROTATION
The decision to keep Young in the rotation means the Mariners’ pitching plans are now tentatively set for the remainder of the season. Here’s how it looks for the remaining series:
• Tuesday and Wednesday vs. Houston: Roenis Elias and Hisashi Iwakuma.
• Friday through Sunday vs. Oakland: James Paxton, Felix Hernandez and Young.
• Sept. 15-18 at Los Angeles Angels: Iwakuma, Elias, Paxton and Hernandez.
• Sept. 19-21 at Houston: Young, Iwakuma and Elias.
• Sept. 22-25 at Toronto: Paxton, Hernandez, Young and Iwakuma.
• Sept. 26-28 vs. Los Angeles Angels: Elias, Paxton and Hernandez.
ACKLEY TO UNDERGO MRI
Left fielder Dustin Ackley was scheduled to undergo an MRI exam Monday night to determine the cause of his sore left ankle.
“We don’t know a whole lot right now until they get a look at it,” Ackley said prior to Monday’s game. “It doesn’t seem like it’s anything crazy, (nothing) other than a little inflammation.”
Ackley left Saturday’s game at Texas because the increasing soreness was affecting his mobility. His left ankle has been a persistent problem in his career because of bone spurs.
Even so, he doesn’t believe it’s serious.
“I can still feel it in there when they move it around,” he said. “It’s one of those things. It might take a couple of days before it’s ready to go.”
Ackley is batting .291 with seven homers and 31 RBIs in 45 games since the All-Star break in boosting his overall numbers to .251 with 11 homers and 60 RBIs in 130 games.
The Mariners, as expected, activated outfielder Michael Saunders from the disabled list prior to Monday’s game against the Astros.
Because of Ackley’s injury, Saunders went right into the lineup as the starting right fielder. Endy Chavez shifted to Ackley’s usual spot in left field.
“From a conditioning standpoint,” McClendon said, “(Saunders) is ready to go. I don’t know if he’s game ready or not. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Hopefully, he can jump-start us.”
Saunders said he feels fit after spending much of the last week working out at the club’s facility in Peoria, Arizona, in an effort to regain his strength and timing after losing 12 pounds in late August due to a viral infection.
“It was very similar to spring training,” he said. “There weren’t too many people down there. Some coaches and some of the staff. A few rehab guys.”
Saunders contracted the infection as he was nearing the conclusion of a rehab assignment at Triple-A Tacoma for a strained left oblique suffered July 10 on a swing in the eighth inning of a 4-2 loss to Minnesota.
“I was ready to go and felt great with my oblique,” he said. “That was before my illness. Pretty bad timing. Once I gained back my weight, I could start getting conditioned and get my strength back.”
Saunders batted .276 prior to the injury with six homers and 28 RBIs in 65 games.
One of the pitchers who Saunders faced during his time in Arizona was rehabbing left-hander Danny Hultzen, who is now 11-plus months into his recovering from major shoulder surgery. Saunders’ view: Hultzen, the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, is throwing well. … Felix Hernandez entered Monday with a 9-3 record this season at Safeco Field. He has never won 10 home games in a season. … The Mariners were 5-2 on their just-completed road trip. That marked their sixth winning record time in their last seven trips. The lone exception came when they went 1-2 at Los Angeles in a one-stop trip immediately after the All-Star break.
It was 13 years ago Tuesday — Sept. 9, 2001 — that Bret Boone set an American League record for RBIs by a second baseman by reaching 128 with a two-run homer against Josh Towers a 6-0 victory at Baltimore.
The previous record was 127 by Detroit’s Charlie Gehringer in 1934.
Boone finished with 141 RBIs, which remains the AL record for second basemen. The major-league record is 152 by Rogers Hornsby of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1922. Hornsby also had 149 in 1929 and 143 in 1925.
The Mariners and Astros continue their three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday at Safeco Field.
Rookie lefty Roenis Elias (10-12 with a 3.90 ERA) will oppose Houston right-hander Collin McHugh (8-9, 2.89). Root Sports will televise the game.
The series concludes Wednesday. After an open date Thursday, the Mariners play three weekend home games against Oakland before departing on their final road trip.