Mathematically, Seattle isn’t completely out of the playoff picture, but the chances of sneaking in are between slim and ‘Are you kidding me?’
ARLINGTON, Texas — Is it too late for the Mariners in 2015?
Math says no.
Common sense says yes.
Seahawks @ Kansas City, 5:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
Reality says it was too late about a month ago.
Most Read Sports Stories
- Mariners ditching gray road jerseys because of new MLB rules
- College football recruiting has changed, and 'it's getting worse' for high-school prospects
- Chips List 2023: The top 100 high-school football prospects in Washington
- Seahawks QB Geno Smith takes home multiple end-of-season honors
- Seahawks mailbag: Is Seattle really a run-first team? Will Rashaad Penny be re-signed?
And the Mariners? They are just focusing on the next game and finishing the season strong.
The chances of Seattle sneaking into that second wild card — currently occupied by the Houston Astros — are somewhere between slim and “Are you kidding me?”
With their 9-2 win over the American League West-leading Rangers on Sunday, the Mariners improved to 73-77.
It was their second straight series win over teams ahead of them in the AL West, having taken two of three from the Angels at Safeco Field. Seattle finished 12-7 against the Rangers this season. And the Mariners have won 12 of their last 18 games.
But with 12 games left to go, they’d probably have to win at least 10 to give themselves a chance, while needing failures from the Astros, Angels, Twins and Orioles. Seattle sits six games behind Houston, which picked up a win on Sunday.
It isn’t something to focus on.
“You want to finish strong,” said Robinson Cano. “There’s too many teams and you are hoping. Last season we were just hoping for Oakland to lose a game, now you have Minnesota, Houston and others. You have to win and waiting for at least three teams to lose.”
But how about reaching .500 or finishing somewhere over it? Sure it’s the pro sports equivalent of a youth-sports participation certificate, particularly for a team that was predicted to be much more this season.
But it’s a mild positive.
“I know what you are saying, but the one thing our team has bought into, and this is what we are focusing on, but the next day is the biggest game of the year,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “This game is over with, let’s get ready for the next one. I’m not concerned with all that other stuff. When it’s all said and done, we’ll be where we’ll be.”
The win on Sunday was a one-game reminder of how good this team was expected to be. The Mariners were able to overcome a so-so start from Felix Hernandez by pounding Rangers’ starter Derek Holland for seven runs and putting the game out of reach quickly.
Hernandez pitched 52/3 innings, giving up two runs on four hits with five walks and five strikeouts to improve to 18-9. Unfortunately, his start came to an end a little early. After a visit at the mound from McClendon and trainer Rob Nodine, Hernandez left the game in the sixth inning as a precautionary move with a tight right elbow.
“He got a little stiff from the long inning and couldn’t get it back to where he wanted,” McClendon said. “He battled, but I didn’t want to take any chances.”
McClendon saw Hernandez shaking his arm continually in that sixth inning and brought the trainer to the mound.
“I said, ‘What’s going on?’” McClendon recalled. “He said, ‘It’s just a little stiff.’ And I said, ‘Give me the ball.’ ”
Hernandez didn’t argue. He knew it was the right thing to do.
“It’s not bad,” he said. “It’s a little stiff. It’s not a big deal. I’ll be ready to go next time.
“Not at all,” he said. “I’ll be fine.”
Hernandez is scheduled to make two more starts this season. If he wins both, he’ll reach the 20-win plateau for the first time in his career. And he wants to pitch.
“That’s something every pitcher wants is to win 20 games,” he said. “I will do whatever I can to win those games.”
With the score tied at 2-2, Seattle exploded for six runs in the fifth inning, five of them against Holland. Stefen Romero started the inning with a leadoff double. He and Ketel Marte would come around to score on Kyle Seager’s one-out double down the right-field line to make it 4-2.
“Everything is a battle with him,” Seager said. “Early in the game, we put some good at-bats together and got his pitch count up a little.”
Rangers manager Jeff Bannister decided to stay with Holland vs. the heart of the Mariners’ order. It was a mistake. He had Holland intentionally walk Nelson Cruz for the left-on-left matchup against Cano. The move backfired.
Cano crushed a 2-2 slider into right field for his 17th home run of the season. The three-run blast pushed Seattle’s lead to 7-2 and ended Holland’s day.
“He’s very aggressive and is going to go after you,” Cano said. “That one stayed up in the middle of the plate and I was ready to take advantage of it.”
Franklin Gutierrez followed Cano’s homer with a solo shot over the wall in right off Ross Ohlendorf. It was his 15th homer of the season and 12th in his last 25 games.
Seattle added another run late on a Seth Smith sacrifice fly, while four relievers worked the final 31/3 innings without allowing a run.