SEATTLE – A loud and proud contigent of Blue Jays fans packed the Safeco Field stands but in the end it was the Mariners faithful that left happy after a satisfying 11-1 Seattle win. With both teams locked in a crowded American League wild-card race, the stakes get higher every day as the season get closer to the finish line,
Recent years haven't been kind to either franchise. Seattle hasn't reached the postseason since 2001. Toronto's streak of playoff futility goes back even further. The last time they made it was 1993. This season, they're both playing meaningful baseball in mid-August and hope to keep pushing deep into September.
They're trying to crash the playoff party in very different ways. The Blue Jays boast one of the league's most productive and powerful offences, averaging 4.49 runs per game. The Mariners are here in large part due to Felix Hernandez, who is having the best season of his remarkable career, and a pitching staff that's allowing a league low 3.25 runs per game, while signing Robinson Cano has provided a boost to the lineup and defence.
Kansas City, currently riding an eight-game winning streak, has overtaken Detroit in the AL Central. Following Monday night's win, Seattle is now just a game back of the Tigers for the second spot in the AL wild-card. The Blue Jays are two games behind and the Yankees are three.
The race is tight and while this series won't define the final result, it could certainly have a profound impact on where the Jays and Mariners finish. Behind another dominant outing from Hernandez and a seven-run sixth inning that end ed the night for Toronto's starter Drew Hutchison, Seattle took the opener in convincing fashion.
“That's how quickly things can change. I thought [Hutchison] was good early on, then the ball started coming up a little bit. Felix [Hernandez], you know, he's going to shut you down. Give those guys a lead and they put it away," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons.
“It was a key game right there,” said Hernandez, who extended his streak of seven or more innings pitched while allowing two earned runs or fewer to 16 straight. “We’re finding something. We fight and do the little things.”
Together, the two fan bases are finding something too – what it's like to be in a playoff race again.