Arkins: Plotting M’s Narrow Postseason Path

It’s been a tough five weeks for the Seattle Mariners. Since the beginning of August, the club has a 15-18 win-loss record and continues to descend in the AL wild card standings.

Entering today’s action, Seattle is four games behind the team holding the second wild card spot in the American League — the Minnesota Twins. Not only is surprising Minnesota leading the way, five other clubs stand between them and Seattle.

Despite the fact the Mariners are facing a path to the postseason that narrows with each passing day, all hope isn’t lost.

Fangraphs forecasts the Twins will win 84 games, while the Mariners project to notch 80 victories. All Seattle has to do is go 15-7 and win 84 games to earn the second wild card berth. Piece of cake, right?

Well, not really.

First, I’m assuming the team securing the second wild card will only need 84 wins or that other clubs won’t have the same record.

Furthermore, Seattle isn’t exactly playing well lately. The division-leading Houston Astros swept them earlier this week and they’re 10-12 in their last 22 contests.

Still, it’s plausible the Mariners could go on a mini-run and surge in the standings. Stranger things have happened.

To demonstrate how the Mariners could get there from here, I got imaginative. I plotted a course leading to the magical 84-game mark by suggesting their needed win-loss record against remaining opponents.

Doable, but extremely tough.

Los Angeles Angels (Suggested record: 4-2)

The Angels start a three-game set at Safeco Field tonight and are one of the clubs the Mariners are chasing.

The last time these two clubs squared off in Seattle, the Angels rudely swept a four-game series during the Edgar Martinez celebration weekend.

With so much on the line, the Mariners must do better this time. It won’t be easy though.

Since both clubs met last month, general manager Billy Eppler added outfielder Justin Upton and second baseman Brandon Phillips to his roster. Moreover, former ace Garrett Richards returned to the rotation this week after missing most of the last two seasons due to health issues.

The Angels are one of two clubs the Mariners play twice between now and season’s end. It’s imperative Seattle finds a way to win at least four games.

Texas Rangers (Suggested record: 5-2)

After going 7-12 against the Rangers in 2016, Seattle is enjoying more success (8-4) this season. With seven games remaining with Texas, the Mariners need to continue that trend.

Despite their recent success against the Rangers, Seattle will have their work cut out for them. Manager Jeff Banister has his club playing at a .588 clip since the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

As usual, the Rangers are prolific producing run producers. Surprisingly, their pitching staff has been better over the last month than all season despite trading Yu Darvish at the deadline.

Houston Astros (Suggested record: 2-1)

Yes, the Astros just swept the Mariners. But, Seattle did win 2 of 3 during their most recent visit to Minute Maid Park in July.

It’s looking more probable that either James Paxton or Felix Hernandez will return to the rotation next week when the Mariners visit both Texas ball clubs. The duo tossed simulated games at Safeco Field today with no issues reported.

Assuming Felix and Paxton don’t encounter setbacks, one could start when the Mariners visit Arlington next week with the other pitching when the club moves to Houston afterwards.

If King Felix and Big Maple do return, they’ll likely be on pitch counts in the neighborhood of 60 pitches. Regardless of any limitations, getting both pitchers back would be an enormous boost for the rotation. It’d also provide a measure of hope to the club’s tortured fan base.

Cleveland Indians (Suggested record: 1-2)

If you haven’t noticed, Cleveland is on fire lately. The Tribe is currently on a 15-game winning streak dating back to August 24.

Despite the strong surge by the Indians, the Mariners need to make their presence known during their final home series of the regular season.

Assuming the Indians maintain their torrid pace, they could clinch the AL Central division title by the time they arrive in the Emerald City. Perhaps, manager Terry Francona opts to rest some of his regulars during their west coast road trip.

On the other hand, Cleveland could be competing for the best record in the AL and postseason home field advantage with the Astros. If that’s the case, Francona isn’t likely to let off the pedal.

Oakland Athletics (Suggested record: 3-0)

The Athletics are 7-13 in their last 20 games and have just one win in September. The Mariners need seize the moment and pull off a sweep when they visit Oakland. Easier said than done though.

Despite his club’s poor record, manager Bob Melvin isn’t going to permit his club to quit. We saw that earlier this month when two of Seattle’s victories over the Athletics were one-run affairs.

Regardless of Oakland’s grit, the Mariners can’t afford to pass up this golden opportunity to add wins.

Finally

Can the Mariners reach the postseason? Sure, but it’ll take virtually everything going right for the club.

Paxton and Hernandez must return and add value. The offense being more consistent would help. Losing streaks from the competition wouldn’t hurt either.

That’s a lot to hope for with 22 game left on the schedule. But, hope is about all that remains for a Mariners team sporting a 69-71 record.

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Luke Arkins

Luke is a native New Yorker, who grew up a Mets fan. After the US Navy moved him to the Pacific Northwest in 2009, he decided to make Seattle his home. During the baseball season, he can be seen often observing the local team at Safeco Field. You can follow Luke on Twitter @luke_arkins
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