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8/22/2014 6:48 P.M. ET

McClendon says club officially entering stretch run

BOSTON -- With 36 games remaining in their season as the Mariners open a three-game set against the Red Sox on Friday, manager Lloyd McClendon said his club is officially entering the stretch run.

"I would say yes. This is it. It really is," McClendon said. "We have to up our game in a lot of different ways, both mentally and physically, because they all get tough from here on out."

The Mariners entered Friday's play a half-game behind the Tigers in the race for the American League's final Wild Card spot as they pursue the club's first postseason berth since 2001.

If the Mariners make the playoffs, they'll have earned it, given 21 of their remaining 36 games are on the road and they still have seven games against the AL West-leading Angels and six against the second-place A's, as well as four against contending Toronto and three against a Nationals team that leads the NL East and entered Friday on a 10-game winning streak.

The Mariners close out with 18 of 27 games on the road in the final month, which would be even-more imposing if not for the fact Seattle has one of the top road records in the Majors at 34-26. That is something McClendon figures is in his team's favor as it deals with a difficult closing stretch.

"No question about it, because if we're going to be successful, we're going to have to do it on the road," he said. "We've got nine home games in September. I don't know who made that schedule, but that's pretty tough. But it is what it is and we'll deal with it. We've done it all year with the travel and the scheduling. We don't talk about it. We don't make excuses about it. We just go out and do it. It'll be no different in September."

Robinson Cano, one of the few Mariners who has been through the heat of a pennant drive, agreed that things start to change about now.

"This is the time you don't want to take a day off because everything means a lot," said Cano. "You must win right now and you have to be ready every single day. This is why in the offseason I work really hard, because this is the time the team really needs you. This kind of situation, whatever you have done in the past doesn't count. It's gone good so far and hopefully we continue playing the same way we've been playing."

Cano believes his new team is ready for the challenge.

"Of course," he said. "Whatever is in my hands, I can do to tell them or show them or talk to them, I'll do it. A lot of people doubted that we'd be there this far into the season, but we've got a bunch of guys that have worked really hard and go out there and play hard. We've got a good chemistry."

Cano thrilled to participate in tour of Japan

BOSTON -- Robinson Cano said that when he was asked to play in a five-game All-Star Series against Japan's national team this coming November, he didn't need to think twice.

"I had a great experience in 2011 when I went to Taiwan," the Mariners second baseman said Friday. "Those are great experiences that as a player you want to have. I have the chance to be able to end my career here in the United States and hopefully nothing happens, but those are things I want to do because I had a lot of fun with a bunch of great guys."

Cano is one of four Major League stars who have already committed to the Japanese tour, which will also include a pair of exhibition games. He's been joined so far by Adam Jones, Albert Pujols and Yasiel Puig on a team to be managed by Rangers skipper Ron Washington.

The games will be played from Nov. 11-20 in four different cities in Japan. Cano isn't worried at all about interrupting his offseason.

"I love baseball," said Cano, whose dad had a brief Major League career as a pitcher and continues to work with him every offseason in the Dominican Republic. "You guys don't even know. I go home and all I do is watch baseball. My mom used to play softball, my aunts played softball. My grandpa played baseball, uncles, cousins. It runs in the family."

Cano said he normally takes a few weeks off after the season and then starts playing again anyway.

"It'll be in November and we don't know how far we'll go," he said. "But I want to be there. Even if I wasn't going to go play, I was going to go there on vacation. It's a beautiful country."

Saunders to miss several more days with illness

BOSTON -- Mariners right fielder Michael Saunders has been sidelined midway through his Minor League rehab stint with Triple-A Tacoma due to an illness that has already caused him to miss two games, Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said Friday.

"He's got flu-like symptoms," McClendon said. "He will not play for two or three [more] days. He's been dehydrated."

Saunders has played 10 games with Tacoma as he works back from a strained right oblique that landed him on the disabled list on July 11, but that return already was interrupted once by paternity leave when he flew home to be with his wife for the birth of their second child.

Saunders has hit .257 with 14 walks in his 10 games so far and even before he got sick, McClendon said the six-year veteran needed to get sharper at the plate before he'd be recalled. Now he'll likely need even more time, with his 20-day stint due to run out on Aug. 26.

The Rainiers season runs through Sept. 1, and it's possible the Mariners could recall Saunders at the end of his 20 days and then ask for an extension that would allow him to continue the Minor League rehab until he's ready.

Worth noting

• Logan Morrison has hit .329 (23-for-70) with five doubles, one home run and nine RBIs in his last 20 games going into Friday's series opener. The Mariners were 14-6 in those games, including 6-1 in games where he had an RBI.

• Kyle Seager needs one more home run to reach 20 for the third consecutive year and join Ken Griffey Jr. and Jim Presley as the only Mariners players with 20-plus homers in three of their first four Major League seasons.

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.