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The Mariners fell back to .500 after losing two of three to Houston, but nine of their next 12 games heading into the All-Star break are at home against teams that don't have winning records. (AP)
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Moore: Mariners need to take advantage of their favorable stretch of schedule before the All-Star break

The Mariners fell back to .500 after losing two of three to Houston, but nine of their next 12 games heading into the All-Star break are at home against teams that don't have winning records. (AP)

I’m not sure if we should be all that disappointed over the weekend series in which the Mariners lost two of three to Houston. The Astros have a better team and showed it for the third straight series against Seattle. Plus they’re 13.5 games ahead of Scott Servais’ team in the America League West.

At least any thoughts of catching the Astros should be completely gone now. It’s just not going to happen whether Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly return or not.

But the wild-card spots are still well within reach, particularly the second one, with the Mariners just two games back. There are six or seven teams in the race to catch the current wild-card holders, Boston and Cleveland, and the Mariners’ chances are as good as any of the others.

Stecker: Mariners finally have the lineup they’ve wanted

When you’re talking about a .500 team, which we are, the Mariners look great some nights, terrible on other nights and in between the rest of the time. That’s what .500 teams do. You’re just hoping they’re good enough to separate themselves from the pack, and a six-game winning streak last week suggests they might.

A look at the schedule before the All-Star break also shows a stretch in which they could be four or five games over .500 by the time the All-Star Game is played in Miami on July 11.

Nine of the Mariners’ next 12 games will be played at Safeco Field, where they’re 25-15. Of those opponents – Philadelphia, Kansas City and Oakland – none has a winning record, and a two-game sweep of the Phillies is almost a given. They’re 10-30 on the road, worst in MLB.

The only road series is this weekend at Anaheim, and I like that the Mariners have gone to a four-man staff for the next turn in the rotation, taking advantage of days off on Monday and Thursday, avoiding a Felix Hernandez start against the Angels. As I recall, he’s had some of his worst outings against Mike Scioscia’s team, and I’m glad he’s pitching against the Phillies in Seattle on Wednesday rather than facing the Angels on Friday.

I know it’s just temporary and that Andrew Moore will return next week to start one of the games against the Royals, but based on his terrific debut against Detroit last week, it would have been nice to see him stay in the rotation for good. Still, I can’t really argue that one too much if I’m going to advocate the Felix matchup against the Phillies instead of the Angels.

So what do you think they need to go during this 12-game stretch? I’ll go with 8-4. That would put them at 47-43 going into the All-Star break, and it might be good enough to put them in the second wild-card spot.

They really need to take advantage of this stretch in the schedule because we all know what’s coming in August – seven home games and 20 on the road, where the Mariners are 14-24. As general manager Jerry Dipoto pointed out last week, since they went 2-8 on the road to start the season, they’re a more respectable 12-16. Even so, let’s agree that they’re better at home than they are on the road.

And you can’t bank on them improving that much anymore when players return from injuries like we hoped was the case before. I don’t have high hopes for Smyly this season, coming off of a three-and-a-half-month absence. Seems crazy to think that this year we’ll see the reasons why Dipoto coveted him so highly over the winter. I think we’ll see glimpses, just not the consistency you want from a third or fourth starter. With Iwakuma, the hopes are even lower. His recent rehab setbacks are discouraging.

But we’ve seen what that lineup can do, inflicting plenty of damage, capable of compensating for a so-so rotation.

The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com and KitsapSun.com. You can reach Jim at jimmoorethego2guy@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.