Seattle's postseason hopes were all but extinguished when it went 19-18 over the past five weeks but the tiny flame that still burns makes the Mariners' final three-game road series, which begins Friday against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park, even more important.
The Mariners will send right-hander Erasmo Ramirez (2-3, 5.65 ERA) to the mound for the series opener while Texas will counter with right-hander Ariel Jurado (3-5, 7.01).
Seattle travels north from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex after a 9-0 victory over defending World Series champion Houston on Wednesday that allowed the Mariners to take two of three games from the Astros.
The nine-run winning margin was the biggest of the season for Seattle, a squad that has specialized in close wins and still has a run differential of minus-38 despite being 16 games over .500.
They are 7 1/2 games behind Oakland for the final wild card spot with 10 games to play. Seattle went 7-2 in Houston this season.
"We've played well here all year," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "Our guys enjoy coming in here, they swing the bats well here. I think a few of our guys get energized here for whatever reason. One of our goals was to play better against them, and we certainly have. It's nice coming in here and beating them, no doubt."
The Mariners (84-68) have clinched a winning season, and 2018 is only the third time in franchise history that Seattle was never under .500 for the entire campaign. The Mariners were exactly .500 three times this year (at 1-1, 3-3 and 4-4) but never fell under the break-even line. The only other seasons Seattle has been .500 or better every day of the season were 1996 and 2001.
Texas heads into its final home series of the season after being swept by Tampa Bay earlier in the week, including Wednesday afternoon's 9-3 rout. At least Texas found home plate in the series finale -- it was shut out the first two games of the set and was outscored 16-3 over the three games with the Rays.
The Rangers are 64-88, have lost 16 of their last 22 games, and are headed for their second straight losing campaign. Texas admitted early in the season that it was in a rebuilding mode and would use younger players throughout the second half of the year to hone their skills for the future.
"We will try to get some of the younger guys in the lineup and continue to find at-bats for those guys," Texas manager Jeff Banister said. "I still believe, thinking about the vision of moving forward, every at-bat, every pitch, every play for some of these young guys are going to be valuable going forward for this team next year. Every experience is valuable experience."
Multiple sources are reporting that the Rangers are contemplating replacing Banister after the season, even though he is under contract for 2019. The Rangers exercised the option they held on him for next season shortly after the 2017 season ended. Those same reports also said that no final decision about changing managers has been made.
Ramirez will make his ninth start of the season Friday, his seventh since being activated from the disabled list Aug. 12 after a right teres major strain. He had a no-decision in his most recent start, a 6-5 Mariners victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday.
Ramirez is making his 17th career appearance (eight starts) against the Rangers and is 0-2 with one save and 6.42 ERA versus Texas.
The 22-year-old Jurado will make his 11th appearance and eighth start of the season after following an "opener" in each of his last three outings, going 1-1, with an 8.31 ERA in those appearances. He last worked in the Rangers' 6-3 win Saturday at San Diego, entering in the second inning and picking up the win via four innings of three-run, seven-hit pitching.
Jurado has gone 1-1 with a 5.60 ERA over his first four games (three starts), three of them starts, at Globe Life Park. He has never faced the Mariners.