It’s funny how two or three feet can mark the difference between glee and gloom; how an extra morsel of carry could have carried a team to victory instead of sending it home in defeat. 

But when catcher Cal Raleigh’s shot to left-center fell just shy of clearing the fence and giving the Mariners another one-run victory, those two or three feet illustrated just how thin the margin for error is for this Mariners squad. 

With a slight wind gust in Raleigh’s favor, we’d all be reiterating how destined this year’s Mariners are — that a three-run blast with two outs in the bottom of the ninth resulted in another “Win of the Year” candidate in a season full of them.

Instead, after Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to Washington — which has a 42-83 record that is worst in MLB — fears of a collapse will swirl in the minds of the M’s long-suffering fans. 

Frustration grows as Mariners can’t get bats going in 3-1 loss to MLB-worst Nationals

It’s not as if the Mariners (67-57) have played particularly poorly since the 14-game winning streak that vaulted them near the top of the wild-card standings before the All-Star break. They are 16-15 in games after the Midsummer Classic and 12-9 this month, which includes two series wins against the 76-48 Yankees.


But this month has also given the Mariners 15 games against the Angels, A’s, Rangers and Nationals, who are a combined 103 games below .500. Seattle’s record against those teams in August? 8-7 — a disappointment disguised as a winning record. 

What should have been added security for a club 21 years removed from its last postseason appearance has become added anxiety. The Mariners are alone in that third-and-final wild-card spot in the American League with Baltimore lurking two games behind, and the Twins, White Sox and Red Sox within striking distance. still gives the Mariners an 87.3% chance of reaching the playoffs, but that’s based on a computer formula removed from human emotion. Every other team in the wild-card race is thinking “Let’s get into the tournament!” The Mariners, whose playoff drought is the longest among teams from any of America’s four most popular professional sports leagues, are thinking, “Do not mess this up.” 

Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to like about this group. It is equipped not only to reach the postseason but potentially go several series into it. That would be true of just about any squad that has the seventh best ERA in baseball — an ERA mostly accumulated before the acquisition of ace Luis Castillo at the trade deadline. 

Rookie right-hander George Kirby helped demonstrate the Mariners’ pitching prowess Wednesday by opening the game with 24 consecutive strikes — an MLB record since the debut of pitch-tracking data. He finished having allowed one earned run through seven innings while tallying nine strikeouts.

It was the best he has looked in his young career, and at 3.32, he is one of five Mariners’ starters with an ERA of 3.83 or lower. That’s a rotation that always gives your team a chance to win — and when you combine that with a bullpen that, before Wednesday’s game, had an MLB-best ERA of 2.37 since June 21, you always have a really good chance to win. 


There is also center fielder Julio Rodriguez, the overwhelming favorite to win American League Rookie of the Year. The 21-year-old hit his 20th home run of the season Wednesday to tie the score at 1-1 in the eighth, and has 23 stolen bases to boot. J-Rod personifies the hope and change fans want to see from this franchise, but he can’t save it single-handedly. 

One of the players who used to help Rodriguez fuel the Mariners’ offense was first baseman Ty France. France’s first half earned him his first All-Star bid, but he has just five hits in his past 60 at-bats and none in his past 18. Ty’s slump prompted Mariners manager Scott Servais to move him from the two spot to the five spot in the lineup — a lineup that has produced fewer runs this season than all but nine MLB teams. 

Wednesday, Servais acknowledged the inconsistency of the Mariners’ offense, which has seemed to undulate more than most other teams. He was also asked about their recent struggles against subpar teams. 

“I wish we could go on 14-game winning streaks all the time. I really do, I’m a big fan of them. Unfortunately that’s not how the game works,” said Servais, who lost two straight to the 46-79 A’s before splitting the two-game series vs. the Nationals. “There’s going to be some ups and downs in performance, and maybe how you’re feeling, or what kind of luck you’re getting at that point of time or who you’re playing. That’s what makes baseball really hard.” 

It’s going to get even harder despite the Mariners having what’s considered one of the “easier” schedules going forward. They face greater pressure to make the playoffs than any other team in MLB.

After a win against the Yankees earlier in the month, Mariners reliever Paul Sewald mentioned how the M’s thrive in close games because they are playing in them so frequently. That might be true, but the fact blowouts are such a rarity with the Mariners underscores the fact that they can ill afford to give away even one at-bat.

Doing so could result in giving away games, which will result in them giving away a season.