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Mariners' next opponent: the road

9/15/2014

When the 2014 schedule was planned last year, I wrote how the schedule-makers hosed the West Coast teams in general and the Mariners in particular.

How bad has it been? The Mariners’ schedule has them flying more miles than any other team this season, including five separate trips to the East Coast to play the five American League East teams and six trips to the state of Texas.

Now, with their postseason hopes on the line, they begin another demanding road trip this week, when they must virtually circumnavigate the continent, playing 11 games in three cities (Anaheim, Houston and Toronto), three time zones (Pacific, Central and Eastern) and two countries (U.S. and Canada). When they finish the road trip in Toronto, they fly back across the country and play their season-ending series in Seattle against the Angels, without a day off.

Nice, huh?

Robinson Cano, playing home games on the West Coast for the first time in his career, says the extra travel makes a big difference. He noted that the Mariners' trip to Anaheim after Sunday’s home game was one of the shortest flights the team makes this season, yet it’s about the same length as the longest trip the Yankees make to play a division opponent.

“For me, it’s tough this year, because I’ve never been in this division,” he said. “But I know now what I’m going through. Next season will be easier.”

Next season should be easier for Seattle too, because the schedule is fairer and more reasonable, with fewer cross-country trips (just three to play AL East teams) and more West Coast trips. (Their interleague opponents are the National League West teams.)

As bad as this final long road trip is for the Mariners, it’s possible that it’s actually good for their postseason hopes. On the one hand, it involves significant travel, no off-days and four games against the team with baseball’s best record (the Angels). On the other hand, Seattle is a combined 19-12 against the Angels, Astros and Blue Jays, with a winning record against each one.

More importantly, the Mariners are significantly better on the road than at home this season. They are 14 games above .500 on the road and two games under .500 in Seattle. They are 4-8 at home since mid-August. They are averaging nearly one run per game more on the road than at Safeco Field, while their ERA is virtually the same. In fact, the Mariners have been held to two hits at home six times this year, most since the 1978 Giants.

So maybe this last trip benefits the Mariners. The Angels had won 10 consecutive games until they lost to the Astros on Sunday; maybe they’re due for a bad streak. And the Blue Jays could be officially eliminated from the wild-card race by the time that series rolls around.

Whatever happens, Seattle can’t let all the mileage in the air distract it from what it must do on the field to reach the postseason for first time in 13 years.

“One thing as player is you can’t let that get into your mind and get mentally tired for those flights,” Cano said. “You just have to not put that thought in your mind. If you let it affect you mentally, it will get your body tired too.”