(AP) — As the Chicago White Sox continue to dig themselves out of an early season hole and fight to get back into the AL Central race, they’ll have to deal with the red hot Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners have gone through a few periods this season when they couldn’t win a game. They much prefer their latest stretch, where one loss never leads to another.
The Mariners have won six straight series for the first time in a decade, and they should feel good about their chances for a strong start against the host White Sox on Monday night as rookie phenom Michael Pineda opposes the winless John Danks.
Seattle (31-28) lost seven consecutive games in early April, four straight in the middle of that month and six in a row again in May, so manager Eric Wedge’s team knows a thing or two about slumps.
Right now, though, the Mariners are playing as well as any team in the majors. They’ve followed all six of their losses since May 13 with a victory, and pulled out their sixth consecutive series Sunday, bouncing back from another defeat. Seattle blew a 5-3 lead in the eighth, but Miguel Olivo’s tiebreaking three-run shot in the bottom of the inning provided a 9-6 victory.
“The guys dug deep today,” Wedge told the Mariners’ official website. “And that’s what you need to do. That’s just part of the process. You play it all the way through. … Our guys are doing a (heck) of a job of that right now.”
It’s been 10 years since Seattle’s played so consistently. The last time the Mariners won this many series in a row was during their 116-win 2001 season, when they reeled off an incredible 14 consecutive series victories from July 27-Sept. 20.
The losses have mounted for Seattle on Chicago’s South Side recently, however. The Mariners have lost eight consecutive games and 12 of 13 overall at U.S. Cellular Field, and they dropped their fourth straight series to the White Sox (28-33) by losing two of three last month in Seattle.
Ozzie Guillen’s team, which is 1-2 on its 10-game homestand after Sunday’s 7-3 loss to Detroit, had the luxury of avoiding Pineda (6-2, 2.30 ERA) at Safeco Field, though.
It won’t miss him Monday. Pineda has pitched seven innings and allowed one run or fewer in three of four starts, though he left without a decision with that exact line in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Baltimore.
The right-hander has had quality starts in all five of his outings on the road, where opponents are hitting .193 against him.
“God-willing he stays healthy, I’ve said (he would be) Rookie of the Year since spring training,” shortstop Brendan Ryan said. “His stuff is just so good. He just pounds the zone, and it looked like he found his slider … if that’s on, it’s pretty much good night.”
Danks (0-8, 5.25) hasn’t had many good nights in 2011, and his performance May 29 at Toronto certainly ranked as his worst. The left-hander gave up nine runs and nine hits – including three homers – over four innings in a 13-4 loss as he became the first White Sox pitcher since Eddie Smith in 1942 to start 0-8.
Smith lost his first 10 decisions that season.
“I’m excited to get back out there. It has been a long seven or eight days, so it’s good to get a little bit of a breather,” Danks told the White Sox’s official website. “But at the same time, I want to get back out there and try to make up for the last one.”
His recent history against the Mariners indicates he’ll have an excellent chance to do so. Danks is 4-0 with a 1.13 ERA in five starts versus Seattle since the 2009 All-Star break.
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