Mariners learning valuable lessons in September

SEATTLE — As the Seattle Mariners began the final three days of the 2012 season, manager Eric Wedge said the team had done what he’d hoped in the second half.

“I’ve always thought good teams turned it up in July and August so they could be in position to contend in Sepember,” Wedge said. “We played well in July and August.

“The last three weeks, we’ve only played contending teams, and most of them will be in the postseason. And we’ve played those teams well.”

The Mariners went 15-11 in July, 15-12 in August — but were 9-17 in September going into the Angels series.

What’s happened?

“We played three extra inning games, five one-run games,” Wedge said. “Over the weekend in Oakland, we were in it until the ninth inning Friday, led in the ninth inning Saturday and were tied in the eighth inning Sunday.

“These are good teams, playing well and playing for something, and our kids have played them all well. We’re a better team this year, yes, and what this team is learning this September is going to help them when we’re playing the games in a pennant race.”

Gutierrez ‘day-to-day’

Franklin Gutierrez remained unavailable to play Monday with a mild strain in his right groin, and while Wedge said his center fielder was “day-to-day,” he acknowledged he’s about out of days.

“You’ve got to fight each day to be in the lineup and we’ll see how he feels (today),” Wedge said. “We’re not going to put him at risk to play him, but I’m a big believer in playing it out if you can.”

Gutierrez played only 92 days last year because of ailments and injuries, and has played just 40 in 2012. Whether the team can consider him a regular next season is an open question.

When he was healthy this season, Gutierrez batted .260 with four home runs and 17 RBI. He has one more year remaining on his contract.

Cabrera or Trout?

The topic in the clubhouse was the American League Most Valuable Player and players — like most fans — were divided between Angels rookie outfielder Mike Trout and Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera.

There were statistical debates that went to each, but three pitchers came to the same conclusion. Since all three figure to face both candidates again in 2013, none wanted his name mentioned.

“Trout is tough but you can still get him out,” one starter said. “Nobody wants to face Cabrera this year. He’s the best hitter in the game this year.”

Bottom line: It’s going to be hard to belittle a voter who goes for either Cabrera or Trout.

Short hops

Since the All-Star break, closer Tom Wilhelmsen is 22-for-25 in converting save opportunities. That gives him the third most saves in the major leagues in that span. … When Casper Wells homered in the first inning Monday, it pushed the Mariners streak of consecutive games with a homer to 19, tying the franchise record set in 1999.

Larry LaRue, The News Tribune

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