It's been on the Mariners' calendar for a while, but they insist they have not been looking at it more than usual. When the Angels arrive at Safeco Field on Monday night, though, the Angels are in town, and the Mariners are gunning for first place.
Seattle has not been in first place in the American League West since holding a half-game advantage over Oakland on April 18. Since then, the Mariners have been as many as eight games out of the lead, but have a serious chance in making up some ground as they host the Angels for a three-game series.
Seattle was as close as one game on July 21, before losing seven straight games. Fortunately, though, the Angels didn't pick up too many games, and now the Mariners appear to have gotten things back on track.
Their pending date with the division leaders, though, is arguably the biggest series they have been in this season, although they insist it has not been tough to focus on their most recent series with the A's as opposed to looking ahead, something manager John McLaren is thrilled with.
"As dumb as it sounds, as vanilla as it sounds, as corny as it sounds, that's the way it should be," McLaren said. "That one game right in front of you [is the most important]."
It's challenging to completely block it out, simply because they need to know who to scout and who to play. Catcher Jamie Burke said the team is excited about the opportunity, but needs to approach each game the same way.
He cautioned, though, great opportunities don't necessarily transfer into triumphs. That part is up to the club.
"We play each other a lot, and we can go from four games to one game, or four games to seven games," Burke said. "That's what's fun about being in a race. Obviously, they're a great team, and we're a good team, and it's just a matter with who gets lucky that day, or who does the right things."
As the season wears on, every series appears to become increasingly important. This one is no different.
"It seems like every homestand and every road trip, it just seems like it's bigger and bigger," McLaren said. "We know the Angels are in front of us, and we know what's at stake, that doesn't have to be said."
SEA: RHP Miguel Batista (10-7, 4.48 ERA)
Batista is 1-1 with a 7.94 ERA against the Angels this season, and has started against them five times in his career. He last faced the Angels on May 28, when he earned the win after allowing four runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.
LAA: RHP Kelvim Escobar (11-4, 2.91 ERA)
Escobar last faced the Mariners on May 15, when he allowed eight runs (six earned) on eight hits in 2 1/3 innings. Since then, he has only allowed five or more runs in two games. He earned a loss in his last game despite pitching well, allowing three runs on nine hits in seven innings of work.
Player to watch
Designated hitter Jose Vidro is a .471 hitter against Escobar, going 8-for-17 against the righty with two doubles, one home run and five RBIs.