SEATTLE -- A series that looked a week ago as if it could help the Mariners stay in the American League West race now will likely draw interest for a different reason.

Seattle begins a three-game set against Toronto on Monday with implications swirling -- but after a poor showing against the Indians over the weekend, these three games aren't likely to have any kind of impact on the AL West standings.

Instead, many in the baseball world will be paying close attention to the Mariners and Jays this week because of their potential actions leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay is the biggest prize on the market right now, and rumors and reported trade offers have been pouring in for the better part of July. He's scheduled to pitch on Wednesday, but whether he makes that start is up in the air. Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said last week he wants Halladay assured of his future when he takes the hill for that outing -- in other words, if Halladay does pitch on Wednesday, supposedly, he won't be traded before the deadline.

And in the other clubhouse, the trade talk will only increase now that the Mariners are slipping further from contention in the AL West. The news on Sunday that Seattle pitcher Erik Bedard is headed to the disabled list does take that name out of any potential deal -- for now, at least. It's not uncommon for guys to be pushed through waivers in an August deal. That would depend on how serious his shoulder inflammation is, though, something the team is unsure of right now.

But the rumors are likely to heat up now involving guys like Jarrod Washburn and Russell Branyan, both of whom will be free agents when the season is over and may command decent returns in a deal right now. Washburn has been one of the more effective pitchers in the game in the past month or so, lowering his ERA to 2.71 and pitching deep into games with consistency. And Branyan has had the best season of his career, and would figure to be a nice power addition to any contending team's lineup.

In any event, this probably isn't what Mariners fans envisioned as the All-Star break wrapped up. They still looked like contenders at that point, a team looking to buy instead of sell, and a series against the below-.500 Blue Jays seemed just what they needed to make up a little ground on the red-hot Angels.

The Mariners are almost certainly sellers now, though, which is something that will make the next week very interesting to follow.

Pitching matchup
SEA: RHP Felix Hernandez (11-3, 2.45 ERA)
Hernandez hasn't wavered from his status as one of the premier aces in baseball. The 23-year-old right-hander is 7-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last 11 starts. Hernandez's most recent win came in a seven-inning effort against Detroit in which he gave up one run on six hits. This is his first start against Toronto this season, but he is 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA in four career starts against the Blue Jays.

TOR: LHP Ricky Romero (8-4, 3.44 ERA)
Romero won his first game in four starts in a 10-6 victory over the Indians on Wednesday at Rogers Centre. He gave up four runs on four hits, lasting 5 1/3 innings. He struggled with his command, issuing five walks, which tied a season high. He had only two strikeouts -- tied for the fewest in any start this season. Three of the four runs he gave up came on a sixth-inning home run by Luis Valbuena -- the last batter Romero faced. Of the last 37 earned runs Romero has given up, 23 have come via the home run. He has never faced Seattle.

Tidbits
Hernandez is 10-2 with a 1.94 ERA when pitching after a Mariners loss. ... Manager Don Wakamatsu said Bedard, shelved with shoulder inflammation, will not undergo an MRI, but is on anti-inflammatory medication. ... Hernandez has recorded 11 consecutive quality starts, which is tied for third-longest streak in club history. ... Hernandez (2nd, 2.45) and Washburn (5th, 2.71) both rank in the top five in the AL in ERA. ... The Mariners lead the AL with 43 sacrifice bunts. Ronny Cedeno has nine of them, a number that is tied for the AL individual lead.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
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•  Official game notes

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Up next
• Tuesday: Mariners (Jarrod Washburn, 8-6, 2.71) vs. Blue Jays (Marc Rzepczynski, 1-2, 2.82), 7:10 p.m. PT
• Wednesday: Mariners (Ryan Rowland-Smith, 0-1, 3.48) vs. Blue Jays (Roy Halladay, 11-3, 2.62), 1:40 p.m. PT
• Thursday: Mariners (TBD) at Rangers (Derek Holland, 3-6, 6.13), 5:05 p.m. PT