The next two weeks are big for the Mariners

May 31, 2013, 7:43 AM | Updated: 11:31 am

By Gary Hill

Strength of schedule is often cited as an important factor when analyzing the NFL, but it’s not often a discussion point in baseball. There are so many games in a baseball season that it’s often assumed that schedules tend to even out.

They often don’t.

The Mariners played in a division last season where every other team finished above .500 (A’s: 94-68, Rangers: 93-69, Angels: 89-73). Thanks to the unbalanced schedule, the Mariners played a higher percentage of their games against teams with winning records. Meanwhile, teams in the National League Central feasted on the Astros (55-107) and the Cubs (61-101).

The schedule has been difficult on the Mariners again so far this season. Here is a look at how many games American League teams have played against teams above .500, with their records attached:

Blue Jays: 46 (23-31)
Astros: 40 (17-37)
Rays: 33 (29-24)
Twins: 33 (23-28)
Mariners: 32 (23-31)
Yankees: 31 (30-23)
A’s: 31 (31-24)
Indians: 27 (29-24)
Royals: 26 (22-29)
Red Sox: 25 (33-22)
Tigers: 22 (29-23)
Angels: 22 (25-29)
Orioles: 22 (30-24)
Rangers: 19 (33-20)
White Sox: 15 (24-27)

Four of the five teams with the worst records in the American League are in the top-five in games played against teams over .500.

There are six teams in baseball playing above .600 baseball. Of the 32 games the M’s have played against above .500 teams, 12 of them have come against the elite above-.600 group.

The Mariners are 13-19 against teams above .500 and 4-8 versus teams above .600.

However, the rocky early schedule takes a turn in the Mariners’ favor for the next two weeks. They will play nine of their next 13 games against teams below .500. The Yankees are the only team on the schedule during that time frame with a winning record, but they have dropped five in a row and seven of nine. The M’s will also tangle with the Twins, White Sox and Astros. The added bonus is that 10 of the next 13 will also be played at Safeco Field.

The Mariners have an opportunity to use the next two weeks to try and scramble back to the .500 mark and it starts Friday in Minnesota.

Big night for Franklin

Nick Franklin swatted two homers Thursday in just his fourth MLB game. He became just the 33rd player in baseball history to produce a multi-homer game within his first four.

Manny Machado was the last one to do it. He hit two homers against the Royals on Aug. 10, 2012. Jesus Montero also homered twice in his fourth game with the Yankees on Sept. 5, 2011. Dave Kingman and Manny Ramirez also appear on the list.

Franklin was the quickest to a multi-homer game in M’s history. Jose Cruz Jr (six), Carlos Peguero (20), Chris Snelling (34), Jeff Clement (37) and Ken Griffey Jr. (45) follow. Franklin was also the seventh-youngest player in M’s history to swat multiple homers in a game. Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez each did it three times at a young age.

It was the 61st time in the history of Petco Park that a player went deep twice. The Mariners and Diamondbacks are tied for having the most multi-homer games by an opponent. Raul Ibanez (2006), Kenji Johjima (2006), Richie Sexson (2006) and Franklin Gutierrez (2009) all have gone yard twice in a game for the M’s at Petco Park.

The Mariners as a team also tied a Petco record with five homers in the game. The Padres did it twice and Atlanta once.

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The next two weeks are big for the Mariners