Seattle Mariners

Mariners notebook: Ackley returns to lineup, expects no further problems with ankle

Left fielder Dustin Ackley returned Friday to the Mariners’ lineup after missing the four previous games because of a sore left ankle and sees no reason he won’t be good to go for the remainder of the year.

“It’s progressively gotten better every day since they’ve given me days off,” Ackley said prior to Friday’s game against Oakland at Safeco Field. “I’m sure I’m probably going to experience a little soreness tonight but (probably) nothing I haven’t felt before. Nothing that will keep me from playing.

“They said there’s no structural damage. I’m kind of just dealing with whatever pain is in there. I don’t think there will be that much.”

Ackley got off to a slow start this season but was batting .291 in 45 games since the All-Star break with seven homers and 31 RBIs prior to leaving last Saturday’s game at Texas in the sixth inning.

“He’s healthy,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Moving well. Feeling good. No restrictions.”

Ackley minimized any interpretation from an MRI exam that suggested the problem stemmed from long-troublesome bone spurs in his ankle and foot.

“It probably didn’t help,” he said, “but it’s not the bone spurs that I was feeling. It was a different feeling than before. I’ve played with the bone spurs, and there was never an issue with that.

“I guess just playing on it over time, inflammation kind of set in, and I started to feel some pains that I hadn’t experienced before. Now, I’ve gotten rid of those, and it’s back to normal.”

Ackley said he currently doesn’t foresee the need for off-season surgery to address the bone spurs.

“(The doctors) said, potentially, there could be bone spurs that come back in the future,” he said. “If that happens, yeah, maybe (surgery is an option). As of right now, there’s really not anything there.”

BIG, NOT MUST

McClendon agreed the three games this weekend against Oakland are important to the Mariners in their push for the postseason. The series opened with the A’s holding a 1 1/2-game lead in the wild-card race.

But “must-win?” McClendon dismissed that suggestion.

“What happens if we get swept?” he asked. “Is the season over with? I don’t think so. It’s an important series. You recognize the importance of it. But it’s not the all-all series.”

CHALLENGING THE KING

Chicago lefty Chris Sale helped the Mariners by shutting out the A’s on Thursday while continuing to position himself as the chief competition to Felix Hernandez in the upcoming Cy Young Award balloting.

Sale limited the A’s to two hits over eight innings in a 1-0 victory. He is now 12-3 with a league-leading 1.99 ERA — and he admits he’s thought about the Cy Young Award.

He also said he tries to push those thoughts out of his mind.

“I got rewarded (Thursday) with a win,” Sale told the Chicago Tribune. “That’s all I need. I’m not a numbers guy — the strikeouts, the ERA, whatever it is.

“There’s one stat that matters. As many times as we can get in that (victory) column, the better off we are. We’re moving in the right direction with this team.”

Hernandez is 14-5 with a 2.12 ERA entering Saturday’s start against the A’s and figures to get a voting boost because he’s pitching for a postseason contender.

“It always has helped a guy who’s in a pennant race,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura told the Tribune. “For Chris, he’s as good as anybody in the league. He’s always going to be up there in those talks.”

Ballots for the Cy Young Award (and other awards given out by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America) must be returned prior to the start of postseason.

SHORT HOPS

The A’s activated closer Sean Doolittle from the disabled list prior to the game. He is 1-3 with a 2.28 ERA and 20 saves in 54 games but hasn’t pitched since Aug. 23 because of a strained right rib muscle. … The Mariners entered the weekend at 38-25 against clubs with winning records at the time the games were played. They were 41-41 against teams that were .500 or had losing records.

LOOKING BACK

It was five years ago Saturday — Sept. 13, 2009 — that outfielder Ichiro Suzuki set a major-league record by reaching 200 hits for a ninth straight season.

Willie Keeler held the previous record at eight years from 1894-1901.

Ichiro made it 10 in a row in 2010 and is currently tied with Pete Rose for the most 200-hit seasons in a career.

ON TAP

The Mariners and A’s continue their three-game weekend series at 6:10 p.m. Saturday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (14-5, 2.12 ERA) will oppose Oakland righty Sonny Gray (13-8, 3.22).

Root Sports will televise the game.

The series concludes at 1:10 p.m. Sunday when right-hander Chris Young opposes A’s lefty Jon Lester, a former Bellarmine Prep star.

The Mariners then embark on their final road trip: four games in Los Angeles, three in Houston and four in Toronto. They conclude their season with three home games against Los Angeles.

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