Tough road trip has taken its toll on Mariners

Tough road trip has taken its toll on Mariners

TORONTO -- For most of the season, the Mariners were the best road team in the American League, a fact that gave hope as they set off on an 11-game cross-country trek to close out their away schedule while pushing for a postseason berth.

But things didn't go as well on the final journey, a tough trip with no off-days to help ease the challenge of playing in three different time zones in two different countries and traveling coast-to-coast from Anaheim to Houston to Toronto -- and now back to Seattle on Friday to wrap things up with a final three games against the Angels.

The Mariners have gone 3-7 on the trip going into Thursday's finale in Toronto, dropping their season road mark to 45-35, which ranked behind the Angels (46-32), Orioles (45-32) and Royals (44-33). Seattle has been outscored, 64-37, in the first 10 games of the journey and clearly has been running low on fumes, particularly with its pitching.

Manager Lloyd McClendon has refused all season to point to Seattle's tough travel as any excuse. The Mariners consistently fly more than 50,000 miles a year, twice as much as some of the Midwest teams and far more than East Coast clubs as well that have numerous division rivals within close proximity.

But McClendon acknowledged Thursday that the last journey has taken its toll, in large part because of a 7 p.m. PT start in the final game of a four-game series in Anaheim that required the club to fly overnight to Houston, where the time change resulted in a two-hour loss smack in the middle of things. The Mariners also have a late-afternoon start in Thursday's finale in Toronto instead of the usual 1 p.m. local getaway time that allows clubs to get to their next destination at a reasonable hour.

"This road trip has been tough," McClendon said. "It's not so much about the mileage, it's just the hours we got in on getaway days took its toll on us. Getting into Houston at 6 in the morning really threw guys off and then coming all the way across the country to here. And now we don't get home tonight until after a five-hour trip.

"Why this game today isn't at 1 o'clock is beyond me. But it is what it is and we'll make the best of it. We have all year. And our guys have been great. They haven't complained at all. They've been super."

Reality has hit home, however, and McClendon said he was playing Robinson Cano at designated hitter on Thursday to give his weary second baseman a little relief.

"You see him in the dugout between innings last night?" McClendon asked. "He's got that roller trying to roll his legs out. It's been a brutal road trip for us in a lot of different ways. He's almost on empty, so we're getting him off his feet a little to see if we can rejuvenate him."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.