August 21, 2016

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Mariners and Milwaukee Brewers both went into the July 31 trade deadline in a selling mood, what with their postseason hopes slowly slipping away.

Less than three weeks later, their once-converging paths have headed in different directions.

As the Brewers head into a three-game series at Seattle's Safeco Field, they're even further from contention than they were in late July. A 5-12 August record, including six losses in seven games, has left Milwaukee at 52-68 for the season and 12 games out of the National League wild-card race.

The Mariners, meanwhile, have inexplicably battled back into playoff contention. A 12-5 record in August has Seattle (64-56) nipping at the heels of Baltimore and Boston in the American League wild-card race. The Mariners' loss to the Angels on Thursday night left Seattle three games behind the Orioles and Red Sox.

Ten of Seattle's 12 wins this month have come by two runs or fewer, prompting manager Scott Servais to tell reporters this week: "It's crazy these games we're playing."

Seattle has been playing its best baseball of the season since getting starter Felix Hernandez back from the disabled list, but the 30-year-old ace has only been a small part of the team's resurgence. The Mariners have had to rely on a group of fill-in starters and a rebuilt bullpen that includes three veteran castoffs from other teams -- Tom Wilhelmsen (Rangers), Drew Storen (Blue Jays) and Arquimedes Caminero (Pirates) -- to re-spark their postseason glimmer of hope.

Seattle's list of probable starters for the Milwaukee series is indicative of the Mariners' unpredictability as a staff. Journeyman Wade LeBlanc and rookie Ariel Miranda, who was acquired when the team dealt established veteran Wade Miley at the deadline, will be sandwiched around Hernandez during the three-game series.

LeBlanc is scheduled to make his eighth start of the season after spending 2015 in Japan and the first 2 1/2 months of this season in Toronto's minor league system. He's been somewhat of a revelation, joining surprising veteran Hisashi Iwakuma as Seattle's two most dependable starters on a staff that has already seen 13 different pitchers make a start.

Two pitchers who won't throw in the series are up-and-comers Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, both of whom were supposed to be big parts of the 2016 season. The former top prospects have been hobbled by injury and inconsistency, as Paxton's currently doing a 15-day stint on the disabled list while Walker was recently demoted to Triple-A.

Milwaukee is planning to have 26-year-old lefty Brent Suter on the mound, marking his major league debut. He'll be the ninth pitcher to start for the Brewers this season, and Milwaukee opted to promote Suter over top prospect Josh Hader to make the start.

"It's not a knock against Josh," manager Craig Counsell said, according to "It's just Brent Suter has pitched very well. He's pitched very well this entire year. He pitched well last year there. He's having a lot of success at the Triple-A level."

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