Mariners Insider Blog

Watchpoints: Mariners gearing up this weekend for a northern invasion

Third baseman Josh Donaldson was injured last month when the Mariners played in Toronto, but he figures to be in the middle of things this weekend for the rematch at Safeco Field.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson was injured last month when the Mariners played in Toronto, but he figures to be in the middle of things this weekend for the rematch at Safeco Field. AP

It’s Canada Weekend at Safeco Field, and the Mariners aren’t kidding themselves. They’re bracing for the reality of being guests in their own home as the Toronto Blue Jay make their only visit of the season.

"It’s something you have to deal with," manager Scott Servais said. "We’re close to the border. It’s a chance for the people in western Canada to see their Blue Jays…I understand they raised the ticket prices."

Indeed.

The Mariners’ primary response to the anticipated weekend flood of Blue Jays fans, while undeniably practical, only exacerbates the situation.

Dynamic pricing shifts ticket prices in accordance with demand. There’s a lot of demand this weekend, and the upward spike is significant. While that may deter some Blue Jays fans, it’s likely to have a greater effect on Mariners fans.

When the Blue Jays visited last September, it produced the three biggest crowds at Safeco in the season’s final month — and remember: the Mariners were in a postseason chase at the time.

"When we stood up for the national anthem," Servais recalled, "they played, `O, Canada,’ and I turned to (bench coach) Tim Bogar and said, `Oh, (shoot)! There’s a lot of people here, and they ain’t rooting for us.’

"It’s just the reality of it. It will be a lively weekend again. They have a good club, and they’re at full strength now. It looks like all of their players are back who were out when we played them last time."

Last time didn’t go well.

The Mariners had just clawed their way to .500 after a poor start when they reached the Rogers Centre on May 11 for a four-game series. They then scored six runs in losing all four games, which started them on a 4-12 skid.

This time, the Mariners are 30-31 after a 9-2 run since pulling out of that tailspin.

Other watchpoints:

***The pitching matchup for the series opener is rookie right-hander Sam Gaviglio (2-1 with a 3.13 ERA) against Toronto right-hander Joe Biagini (1-4 and 3.31). The game starts at 7:10 p.m. and can be seen on Root Sports Northwest.

***Gaviglio made his big-league debut by giving up one run over two innings in relief on May 11 in a 7-2 loss at Toronto. He then entered the rotation and has a 3.00 ERA as a starter, although he’s only once pitched beyond five innings.

***Biagini is a reliever forced by injuries into the Blue Jays’ rotation. His only victory came May 12, when he pitched five innings in a 4-0 victory over the Mariners. He is 0-3 with a 4.64 ERA in four starts since that victory.

***Toronto is 11-5 since May 21.

***The Blue Jays didn’t have third baseman Josh Donaldson, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and catcher Russell Martin (12 combined All-Star appearances) for their earlier four-game series against the Mariners — and still completed a sweep.

***The Mariners were missing second baseman Robinson Cano for those four losses in Toronto.

***Designated hitter Nelson Cruz is expected to return Friday to the lineup after missing the last two games because of a strained right calf muscle.

***Toronto leads the American League with 18 separate disabled-list transactions. The Mariners have made 16, but they lead the majors with 96 moves involving their 40-man roster since opening day.

***The Blue Jays and Mariners were expansion clubs in 1977. Toronto holds a 205-185 edge in the all-time series, but the Mariners lead 95-94 in Seattle and 39-24 at Safeco Field.

TIME CAPSULE

It was 38 years ago Friday — June 9, 1979 — that the Mariners held a "Willie Horton Night" to honor the slugger three days after he became the 43rd player in history to reach 300 career home runs.

Horton marked the occasion by going 3-for-5 against Cleveland in front of a Kingdome crowd of 40,314. He even hit a triple. But the Mariners suffered a 4-3 loss in 10 innings.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

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