PHOENIX – The Seattle Mariners were mostly sellers at the trade deadline three weeks ago, dealing closer Paul Sewald to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a move signaling that this year probably wouldn't end in the postseason.
Julio Rodríguez had other ideas.
The young All-Star recently finished a four-day stretch for the ages, setting an MLB record with 17 hits in those four games and helping to push the Mariners back into the American League playoff race.
Rodriguez went 17 for 22 in the four games from Wednesday to Saturday — all Mariners wins — raising his batting average from .256 to .278 in the process. Seattle finished a sweep over the defending World Series champion Houston Astros on Sunday, holding on for the 7-6 win.
The Mariners have won 14 of their past 17 games and currently have a spot in the playoffs. They're a half-game ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays for the final wild-card position in the AL.
There's still six weeks left in the regular season, but the Mariners understandably feel good about their chances to play extended October baseball.
“It all comes down to the competing and our guys love to compete and we got after it today and that’s the only way you’re going to figure out a way to sweep a team like that at this time of the year,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “So we’ll keep rolling. Guys are feeling it right now. We’re playing great baseball.”
MEANWHILE, IN THE NL
For those who enjoy chaos, the National League wild-card race is full of it.
After Sunday's games, the Phillies (67-56), Giants (65-59), Cubs (64-59), Reds (64-61), Marlins (64-61) and Diamondbacks (64-61) are the six teams in the race for three NL wild-card spots.
“Every game matters,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said on Saturday after a doubleheader sweep of the Padres. “I’m really amplifying that message. Wins are really, really important right now. The guys have been fantastic at doing the little things.”
KEEPING THEIR WITT(S)
It's been a brutal season for the Kansas City Royals, who are on track to lose more than 100 games this season.
Bobby Witt's improvement is one of the few silver linings.
The young shortstop has had good moments in his first two seasons, but the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft has been a force over the past month, with a .400 batting average, eight homers, 28 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.
Texas Rangers right-hander Max Scherzer recently moved into 11th place on the all-time strikeout list, passing Phil Niekro. Scherzer now has 3,344 career strikeouts.
Health willing, the 39-year-old will move into the top 10 soon, possibly by the end of the season.
How many pitchers in the career top 10 can you name?
The Red Sox always enjoy a three-game sweep over their main rival, the New York Yankees.
But a three-game sweep that keeps them in contention for the AL playoff race? That's even better.
The Red Sox have won eight of their past 11 games and continue to lurk in the AL race, sitting three games behind the Mariners for the final wild-card spot after Sunday's games.
Speaking of the Yankees, they're sinking in a hurry in the AL standings.
They've lost nine of their past 10 games, putting them at 60-64 overall and nine games back for the final AL playoff position. In other words, things are pretty bleak. On Sunday, they lost eight straight games for the first time since 1995.
“We got to be unbelievable the rest of the way,” manager Aaron Boone said on Sunday.
The Yankees are in serious danger of finishing below .500 for the first time since 1992, when they finished 76-86.
The top 10 in career strikeouts, according to baseball-reference.com: 1. Nolan Ryan, 5,714, 2. Randy Johnson, 4,875, 3. Roger Clemens, 4,672, 4. Steve Carlton, 4,136, 5. Bert Blyleven, 3,701, 6. Tom Seaver, 3,640, 7. Don Sutton, 3,574, 8. Gaylord Perry, 3,534, 9. Walter Johnson, 3,509. 10. Greg Maddux, 3,371.
AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken in Houston and freelancers Larry Fleisher and Richard J. Marcus contributed to this report.
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