Blue Jays look for sweep vs. Hernandez, Mariners

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[September 21, 2016]  SEATTLE -- The Toronto Blue Jays have spent a good part of recent weeks chasing the Boston Red Sox in the American League East standings and the Baltimore Orioles in the AL wild-card race.

After Tuesday night, the Blue Jays are beginning to look more like the hunted.

Their 10-2 win over Seattle put the Blue Jays atop the wild-card standings and applied a significant blow to the Mariners' playoff chances.

Toronto (83-68) has won two in a row and suddenly is in better position than it has been in a while.

"With that early game (Wednesday afternoon), this was a big win tonight," Toronto right fielder Michael Saunders said late Tuesday night. "It's going to come earlier than usual, and hopefully we can carry this momentum into (Wednesday)."

The first order of business is to finish off a sweep of the fading Mariners, who host Toronto in the final game of the three-game series Wednesday.

The Blue Jays plan to have starter Aaron Sanchez (13-2) back on the mound after a blister delayed his latest start. Sanchez got roughed up his last time out, but his blister problems appear to be somewhat resolved as he heads into Wednesday's game.

The Mariners (79-72) will counter with No. 1 starter Felix Hernandez, who hasn't pitched like an ace this season. Hernandez (11-6) is coming off a forgettable start in the opening game of the Houston series last Friday, and he needs to step up in one of the few big-game starts of his career.

Hernandez has never pitched in a postseason game, and most of his September starts over his 11-year career have come with the Mariners out of postseason contention.

Seattle is still alive this time around, but the Mariners' chances are growing slimmer with each loss. They entered the Toronto series in need of at least two wins, and now the Mariners will just try to salvage one.

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Mariners starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma (18) walks back to the dugout after being relieved against the Toronto Blue Jays during the fourth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The good news for Seattle is that Baltimore has also fallen on hard times, so the Mariners are still within striking distance in the wild-card race. The bad news is that two other teams -- Detroit and Houston -- have now passed Seattle and are added obstacles.

"It's disappointing, no doubt," Seattle manager Scott Servais said after Tuesday's loss, "but it is what it is. We've got to get back to playing good baseball."

The Mariners have scored two runs or fewer in five of their past six games, and their offense is running out of gas at a bad time. Tuesday was another example, as Seattle took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning but didn't score again the rest of the way.

Five games against fellow AL wild-card contenders Toronto and Houston have left the Mariners with a 1-4 record, and Seattle hasn't looked good in the process.

"That's kind of been the story of our season," Servais said. "We're either really, really good, or we have some ugly nights."

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