The idea of Oakland suddenly collapsing and allowing the Mariners back doesn’t seem plausible. All of this could all be decided in a week or it could go down to the last day of the season.
And on Thursday, they rested.
The three top teams in the American League West all had the day off from the grind of the final month of the regular season, which features the jockeying for playoff spots, a division title chase and an avoidance of more crushed dreams (mostly for just one team).
The Astros are trying to hold off the A’s and clinch their second straight AL West title and avoid playing in a wild-card game.
The A’s are trying to catch the Astros to win their first AL West title since 2013. They’re also trying to catch the Yankees and possibly host the wild-card game if they have to play in it and they also have to hold off the Mariners, which hasn’t proven to be a difficult task.
The Mariners are trying to play well enough to stay relevant while hoping the A’s play poorly enough to be caught. And, of course, the Mariners are trying to snap the longest postseason drought of any team in the four major professional sports in North America.
With three weeks left in the season, anything seems possible. Well, some things possible. The Mariners need something more than possibility. They host the Yankees for three games over the weekend at Safeco Field. Large crowds are expected for the games. You can guess the percentage of Yankee vs. Mariners fans for the games.
Looking a little closer at the situation in the AL West, the Astros (87-53) have a 3 1/2-game lead over the A’s. Now fully healthy with Jose Altuve and George Springer back from the disabled list, and with Alex Bregman playing like a MVP candidate, the Astros seem poised to close out another division title.
They are aided by two things: they don’t play the A’s again and they have a relatively easy schedule. Houston has just nine games remaining against teams with winning records. The Astros open a three-game series against the Red Sox on Friday at Fenway Park. It’s a possible matchup of the American League Championship Series. The other six games come in a week when they host the Diamondbacks and Mariners for back-to-back three-game series at Minute Maid Park. Even if the A’s were to somehow make it close, the Astros finish the season with four games against the Orioles — the worst team in baseball — at Camden Yards.
After just taking two of three games from the Yankees at the Oakland Coliseum, the A’s also trail New York by 3 1/2 games to host the wild-card game. The difference of playing in Yankee Stadium vs. hosting the game isn’t insignificant. The Yankees have lost six of their last seven games in Oakland and the A’s are 43-29 at home this season.
Of their 21 remaining games, the A’s only have six games against teams with a winning record — three at the Rays (Sept. 14-16) and three against the Mariners at Safeco (Sept. 24-26).
And finally, there is the Mariners and their situation.
“We just have to keep wining games and keep winning series,” said Robinson Cano. “And then maybe see if we can have a good stretch and win five or six games in a row and see what happens.”
Just winning series might not cut it. The Mariners have 22 games remaining. They probably can’t lose more than six or seven games.
The last time the Mariners won four games in a row was the sweep in Houston in August. Prior to that it came when they won seven in row over the Orioles, Royals and Angels in late June. Nothing about their recent play seems to speak to that possibility. They’ve won back-to-back games just twice in their past 20 games.
On July 3, the Mariners were 55-31 — 24 games over .500. They went 23-31 since then to put themselves in this predicament. Over that same time, the A’s went 43-18.
The idea of Oakland suddenly collapsing and allowing the Mariners to come back doesn’t seem plausible.
Here’s a simple way to look at it. The A’s have 21 games remaining. If they played just over .500 at 11-10 in those games, it would leave them with a 95-67 record. For the Mariners to equal that and force a game No. 163 to get into the wild-card spot, Seattle would have to go 17-5 over those final 22 games.
The best scenario for them would be to somehow shave down the 5 1/2 game deficit in the wild-card race to to 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 games before they face the A’s in that last week of the season.
It’s difficult to think the Mariners can pull off that sort of run. It’s seems even less likely that the A’s will falter given how they are playing. But nobody really expected the A’s to play .700 baseball since mid-June. All of this could all be decided in a week or it could go down to the last day of the season.