Mariners left fielder Ben Gamel now has exactly enough plate appearances to qualify among the American League leaders and heads into Thursday’s series opener against Oakland with a league-leading .335 average.
It’s a narrow lead. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, the reigning batting champion, is at .334. New York rookie sensation Aaron Judge is third at .331.
Gamel is seeking to become the first rookie to lead the American League in batting at the All-Star break since Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout had a .341 average in 2012.
Trout finished that season at .326, which was second to the .330 by Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who achieved a Triple Crown by also leading the league with 44 homers and 139 RBIs.
The formula for qualification is 3.1 plate appearances times the numbers of games played by the player’s team. The Mariners (41-45) have played 86, so the qualification standard for their players entering Thursday is 266.6.
Gamel has 267 after going 2-for-4 in Wednesday’s 6-3 loss to Kansas City in 10 innings.
A player can win the batting title without achieving the minimum 502 plate appearances (162 games times 3.1) if adding a zero-for-the-shortcoming still leaves the player with a highest average.
(Example: If a player is eight plate appearances shy of the qualifying number, but adding an 0-for-8 to his totals still leaves him with the highest average, then he wins the batting title.)
That’s why some recent listings had Gamel as the league leader even though he lacked the necessary number of plate appearances for qualification. Gamel no longer needs such an asterisk.
But shortstop Jean Segura does.
Segura went 2-for-5 on Wednesday and raised his average to .343, but he is 10 plate appearances short of qualification. An 0-for-10 drops his average to .329, which would be fourth in the American League.
It’s unlikely that Segura will get the 22 plate appearances necessary over the next four games to reach the qualifying standard by the All-Star break, but he could get close enough to be the league leader when the necessary 0-fer is added to his totals.
***Two rookie right-handers hook up in the pitching matchup in Thursday’s series opener. Sam Gaviglio (3-3 with a 3.48 ERA) will face Oakland’s Paul Blackburn (0-0, 0.00). The game starts at 7:10 p.m. and can be seen on Root Sports Northwest.
***Gaviglio is winless in his last three starts (0-2) despite allowing three or fewer earned runs in each one. He has never faced the Athletics.
***Blackburn is a former Mariners farmhand who is making his second big-league start. He worked six scoreless innings July 1 in a no-decision against Atlanta.
***The Mariners acquired Blackburn with first baseman Dan Vogelbach from the Chicago Cubs in a July 20, 2016 trade for pitchers Mike Montgomery and Jordan Pries. The Mariners traded Blackburn to Oakland on Nov. 12 for first baseman Danny Valencia.
***While the Athletics have the worst record in the American League at 37-48, they have won their last two games. They also have a 4-3 lead over the Mariners in the season series.
***The Mariners have lost eight of their last 10 and seven in a row at home.
***Beware of the Dog: It’s a Bark at the Park night at Safeco Field.
It was 19 years ago Thursday — July 6, 1998 — that Ken Griffey Jr. won the Home Run Derby at Coors Field as part of the All-Star Week festivities in Denver.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners