When the Mariners woke up Thursday, after a much-needed day off following a 6-2 road trip, they found themselves 2.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox, who currently hold the second American League wild-card spot, and a game behind the Oakland A’s, who had previously held that spot before losing eight of their last 10 games.
With a 69-58 record and 35 games remaining, the Mariners will exceed most preseason prognosticators picks and projection systems that had them barely reaching that many wins.
But will they be able earn the franchise’s first postseason berth since 2001?
It would end a now infamous drought that is the current longest streak without a postseason appearance in major professional sports.
It might not have been expected, but it’s here and possible.
While manager Scott Servais and Mariners players won’t spend their days watching scoreboards and checking the standings, they know where they sit in the postseason race.
“I’ve got to be honest, I don’t look at the standings every day,” Servais said a few weeks ago. “I kind of focus in on series to series. And if you keep winning series, you can look up and we will be in a great spot once we get to the first of September or into September. So at that point, I think you look at that a little bit closer once you get down to maybe the final 25-30 games of the season.”
Well, it’s time to look closer.
Provided the Mariners can continue to play at their current level, they will be playing meaningful games in late September — one of the achievable goals set by the current leadership regime.
“That’s why you play and you work all year long is to hopefully be in meaningful games when you get into August and September,” Servais said. “It gives you something to play for every night when you come to the ballpark, and you’re not just worried about how you’re doing personally, but trying to do the right things to help your team win.”
Looking at playoff projection systems, they are not bullish on the Mariners’ chances. FanGraphs puts Seattle’s odds of making the playoffs at just 4.1% while Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projection system is a little more kind at 8.1%. The most favorable is the projections from FiveThirtyEight, which has them at 14%.
Then again those are the same systems that had Seattle winning around 70 games this season. The Mariners have prided themselves on beating back stats and basic baseball premises to reach this point in the season.
With that in mind, it seems like the perfect time to play the schedule game — looking at the remaining schedules of teams left in the wild-card race.
As of Thursday morning, the Yankees and their collection of big-bodied bashers that Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford referred to as the “MonStars,” led the wild-card race with a 74-52 record thanks to their current 11-game win streak. The Red Sox hold the second wild-card spot at 72-56.
Let’s go in order of the current standings (all information from Thursday morning):
Yankees: 74-52 overall (39-25 home/35-27 road)
- 36 games remaining (17 home/19 road)
Red Sox: 72-56 overall (40-26 home/32-30 road)
- 34 games remaining (15 home/19 road)
Athletics: 70-57 overall (35-29 home/35-28 road)
- 35 games remaining (17 home/18 road)
Mariners: 69-58 overall (37-25 home/32-33 road)
- 35 games remaining (19 home/16 road)
Blue Jays: 66-59 overall (34-27 home/32-32 road)
- 38 games remaining (20 home/17 road)
The Mariners and Blue Jays have the most remaining home games of the group, which should help both teams. Oddly, the Mariners have 35 games against six different opponents, while the other teams play nine different teams.
Combined records of remaining opponents (as of Wednesday):
- Yankees: 606-647 (.484)
- Red Sox: 562-565 (.499)
- Athletics: 579-555 (.510)
- Mariners: 377-382 (.497)
- Blue Jays: 472-412 (.533)
But this stat can be a little deceiving since the Blue Jays, for example, have 10 games vs. the Orioles, who entered Thursday with a 39-86 record and seem to be getting worse.
Perhaps it’s more instructive to look at the remaining games against teams with winning records and losing records as well as their success against both.
- 19 vs. sub .500 (34-18 record vs. sub .500 teams)
- 13 vs. over .500 (41-34 record vs. over .500 teams)
- 18 vs. sub .500 (32-18 vs. sub .500 teams)
- 16 vs. over .500 (40-38 vs. over .500 teams)
- 12 vs. sub .500 (46-19 vs. sub .500 teams)
- 23 vs. over .500 (24-38 vs. over .500 teams)
- 19 vs. sub .500 (36-26 vs. sub .500 teams)
- 16 vs. over .500 (33-32 vs. over .500 teams)
- 20 vs. sub .500 (29-21 vs. sub .500 teams)
- 17 vs. over .500 (37-38 vs. .500 teams)
The Mariners open a four-game series against the Royals (56-69) Thursday and have a three-game series in KC in a few weeks. But even Servais has admitted they have a tendency to not play well against teams they should beat. Kansas City recently took four of five games the Astros. Seattle also has a home and away series with a very bad Diamondbacks team (42-85). But the six games left with the Astros and the seven with the A’s loom large. Seattle does end the season with a six-game homestand.
The schedule sure does bode well for the Yankees to maintain that spot for the wild card. They only have three games remaining with Tampa, who leads them by four games in the AL East race. That series comes in the final days of season at Yankee Stadium, which would be pretty fun baseball if they are playing for the division title. The Red Sox get six games with the Orioles and three with the Nationals — two very bad teams. Boston closes out the season with a three-game series at Camden Yards and a three-game series at Nationals Park.
The A’s don’t have a favorable schedule. They are reeling, having lost eight of 10, and the Yankees, the hottest team in baseball, visit Oakland on Thursday for a four-game series.
The Blue Jays can get healthy with 10 games against the Orioles and seven with the Twins. But they have seven games with the Yankees, six with the Rays and two more with the White Sox.
It could be a fun six weeks of baseball in Seattle.