ANAHEIM, Calif. — Entering the final week of the regular season, the Seattle Mariners still have a chance at qualifying for the postseason, but in their minds the playoffs have already started.
The Mariners return from a 10-game road trip to host a three-game series with Oakland, beginning Monday night, before closing out their schedule against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday through Sunday at T-Mobile Park.
How the Mariners perform over their final six games will go a long way in determining whether they supplant American League East contenders Toronto, Boston and New York for the last wild-card spot. They’ll enter the final week two games back of that playoff spot.
Mariners manager Scott Servais believes the key to the club’s success in the upcoming week will be to keep it simple, and he hopes that mindset yields the same results it did for the United States during the Ryder Cup, which Servais followed with interest.
“I played there once a long time ago, and that’s the hardest course I’ve ever played,” Servais said of Whistling Straits, where the 43rd biennial golf competition was held over the weekend. “Michael Jordan was interviewed there yesterday and talked about how big moments shouldn’t change who those guys are or what they do. Same goes for our sport.”
With his bullpen taxed heavily on the road trip, Servais appreciates the veteran leadership on his staff and believes it will help the younger pitchers handle the pressure during the team’s final homestand.
“We’ve got plenty of depth,” Servais said. “Paul Sewald and Drew Steckenrider have been awesome every time we’ve put them out there, particularly in high-leverage situations, but we need to be smart. We’ve got ballgames left to play, not many, and they’re all really important.”
“The experience that Sean Doolittle and Joe Smith have brought has helped us a lot,” Servais added. “The conversations they’ve had with some of our young players is invaluable. You can talk to them as a coach or a manager, but other players are who they’re going to listen to the most. And those two have pennant race and playoff experience and even, in Doolittle’s case, a World Series, so it’s great to have those guys around. However, I also have a ton of confidence in our young guys.”
The Mariners’ last playoff appearance was 20 years ago when they won an American League-record 116 games under manager Lou Piniella, only to lose to the Yankees in the ALCS.
“Our young guys have learned a ton over the course of the season about how to deal with adversity and how to take care of your body,” Servais said. “We were on a road trip in a warm-weather city, and I stressed how important it is to stay hydrated.”
Playing their final six games in front of home fans should energize the Mariners — except that they recently have struggled at T-Mobile Park, dropping nine of their past 15 there.
“Hopefully our fan base is excited about what we’ve been able to do,” Servais said. “We’re really looking forward to the electricity in our park. Our guys are looking forward to it being back home.”