The Mariners might not be contending for the playoffs this season, but they're sure getting a chance to experience the pennant-race atmosphere thanks to their recent schedule.

As the Mariners finish up their eight-game road trip on Wednesday with a game against the White Sox, they will be concluding their fifth straight series, encompassing 15 games, against teams either leading their division or extremely close. The last five series for Seattle have been against the Twins (second place by one game), Rays (first place), Angels (first place), Twins and White Sox (first place).

And while the Mariners have struggled so far during the stretch, they definitely have been exposed to a certain type of competition -- one manager Jim Riggleman thinks is healthy for the club.

"I think it's good experience for our players to play in that atmosphere every night. There were good crowds every game in Minnesota ... and in Anaheim when we played the Angels ... even at home against Tampa," Riggleman said.

"They needed to win those games, and our fans were out there in force. It was a good atmosphere. Most of the games have been close. The intensity those other clubs have had trying to win their division has carried over to our team. They are wanting to win the game."

The Mariners will try to take the final game against the White Sox with R.A. Dickey on the mound. The knuckleballer was hit hard by the Rays during his last start and left the rotation, but he quickly returned when Carlos Silva went on the disabled list with elbow tendinitis.

The club then will get a relative breather when the third-place Athletics come to Safeco Field on Thursday to start a four-game series.

Pitching matchup
SEA: RHP R.A. Dickey (3-7, 4.92 ERA)
The knuckleball specialist returns to the rotation just three days after being sent to the bullpen, replacing the injured Silva for the time being. Dickey, who is 2-7 as a starter this season, tied a Major League record during a relief appearance against the Twins on Sunday by throwing four wild pitches in the fifth inning. For whatever reason, his knuckler was moving more than usual inside the Metrodome, compared to the movement it has outside. Dickey figures to get at least two more starts.

CWS: RHP Gavin Floyd (12-6, 3.75 ERA)
It wasn't Floyd at his best during Friday's 6-4 loss to the A's in Oakland, but the right-hander certainly pitched well enough to win. He allowed one earned run on six hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out four and walking two. Floyd also threw 110 pitches against an extremely patient Oakland lineup. Floyd has one start against the Mariners this season, and it was not a good one. He allowed five runs on nine hits over 3 2/3 innings during a loss at Safeco Field. Floyd has a career 0-2 record with a 10.13 ERA against Seattle, but he has an 8-2 record at U.S. Cellular Field this season.

Tidbits
Despite being a left-handed hitter, Raul Ibanez entered Tuesday ranked sixth in the American League against left-handed pitching with a .345 average. He also ranked second among left-handed hitters against left-handed pitching in the AL. Minnesota's Joe Mauer was hitting .384 to claim the top spot. ... The Mariners recorded seven combined wild pitches during their games on Sunday and Monday. Four of those came on Sunday from R.A. Dickey in one inning, tying a Major League record. Seattle had three more on Monday from a trio of pitchers, making it only the 10th time since 1956 that a team has recorded at least three wild pitches in consecutive games. ... With his 20th home run on Sunday, Adrian Beltre became the third Mariners third baseman to record three straight seasons with at least 20 homers. The other two are Jim Presley (1985-87) and Russ Davis (1997-99).

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Up next
• Thursday: Mariners (Ryan Rowland-Smith, 2-1, 4.11) vs. Athletics (Greg Smith, 5-12, 3.91), 7:10 p.m. PT
• Friday: Mariners (Ryan Feierabend, 0-1, 18.00) vs. Athletics (Gio Gonzalez, 1-2, 7.53), 7:10 p.m. PT
• Saturday: Mariners (Jarrod Washburn, 5-13, 4.95) vs. Athletics (Kirk Saarloos, 1-0, 1.59), 7:10 p.m. PT