The Seattle Mariners are assured of winning records in July (15-11) and August (15-11), and tonight begin a 30-game sprint toward a goal they've reached twice in the last eight seasons - an above .500 record.
Now 64-68, the Mariners open a nine-game home stand against the Angels (69-62), Red Sox (62-70) and Athletics (73-57). How they do will go a long way toward determining how they finish - September is not a kind month.
Down the stretch, the Mariners face Texas six times, the Angels and Athletics again, Toronto and Baltimore.
Seattle will reinforce its roster starting tomorrow, with players like Casper Wells and Mike Carp due back, along with pitchers like Erasmo Ramirez and Shawn Kelley, depending upon Kelley's health.
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A winning season in manager Eric Wedge's second year would go a long way toward validating his and general manager Jack Zduriencik's approach, flaws and all. If they can win with below-expectation seasons from nearly every hitter on the roster, they might harbor dreams of contention by adding a player or two and getting more from their own.
It's a reminder why those in baseball believe in finishing strong. Had Seattle opened 2012 with consecutive winning months, then faded in July, August and September, it would have been difiicult to construct positives.
If the Mariners can finish above .500 this year - albeit in fourth place again - they'll have something concrete upon which to built their hopes for 2013.
Here's tonight's lineup vs. the Angels:
Dustin Ackley 2BFranklin Gutierrez CFKyle Seager) 3BJohn Jaso DHJesus Montero CMichael Saunders RFJustin Smoak 1BTrayvon Robinson LFBrendan Ryan SSKevin Millwood RHP