The Seattle Mariners did not exactly head into the All-Star break with momentum.
The Mariners, who have not made the playoffs since 2001 and are trying to end the longest postseason drought in the four major professional sports, lost their last four games before the break, including a three-game interleague sweep at Colorado.
Still, Seattle (58-39) holds a three-game lead over the suddenly surging Oakland Athletics for the American League's second and final wild-card berth.
The Mariners come out of the break with a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox, starting Friday night at Safeco Field.
"I think we've had an awesome first half of the season," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "It's a credit to our players. We've certainly faced some adversity. Injuries, losing Robbie (Cano) and things like that. So, to be in this position, I couldn't be any happier.
"Now I say that and you're always a little disappointed because we're in a little bit of a swoon and haven't played that well recently. But you have to look at the big picture here. You have to stand back and say, 'When we left (spring training), what were we shooting for What were we hoping for."
The Mariners have certainly exceeded preseason expectations. They were represented at the All-Star Game by outfielder Mitch Haniger, shortstop Jean Segura, designated hitter Nelson Cruz and closer Edwin Diaz.
Offseason acquisition Dee Gordon has provided a spark at the top of the lineup and made a seamless transition from center field back to second base after Cano was suspended 80 games for performance-enhancing drugs.
"We've played hard this first half and we've played well, too," Gordon told MLB.com. "Everybody needs a break. We're going to enjoy it, recharge our batteries and get ready for the second half."
The White Sox (33-62) set a franchise record for most losses before the All-Star break.
"It wasn't a very good first half in wins and losses, but I think that's part of the process," White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada told MLB.com through an interpreter. "We're all trying to do our best. We improved during the first half, and I think in the second half we'll be much better."
All-Star first baseman Jose Abreu, who undoubtedly will be the target of other teams in trade talks as the July 31 deadline nears, said the team needs to keep a simple focus in the second half.
"Our mindset has to be: just improve," Abreu told MLB.com. "Be better. Be better and keep working. Come here every day to do our best."
The White Sox are set to send right-hander James Shields (4-10, 4.43 ERA) to the mound in the series opener against Mariners left-hander Wade LeBlanc (5-1, 3.63).
Shields is 5-8 with a 4.66 ERA in 19 career starts against the Mariners, including a 4-3 home loss on April 25 in which he allowed four runs on six hits in six innings.
LeBlanc, in his second stint with Seattle, is coming off his first loss in 22 starts with the team. He's 0-0 with a 2.87 ERA in four career appearances against the White Sox, with one start. LeBlanc pitched 4 2/3 innings of relief at Chicago on April 23, allowing two runs on six hits with no walks and six strikeouts.