In baseball, the only true “must-win” game is the one where a loss means the season’s over. In the most literal sense, the Seattle Mariners didn’t “need” to win even one of the three games they just played against the Toronto Blue Jays. Three losses would have meant no more than a three-game deficit. The true must-win games would come in September, hopefully.
There’s still some hope for the Blue Jays, then, despite the three-game sweep they were just dealt by the suddenly-streaking Seattle Mariners. The New York Yankees, also in the middle of a series-long losing streak, have some hope left in their tank as well. But wow, is it ever great to be the Seattle Mariners right now.
The Mariners just finished playing their first meaningful August series in nearly a decade. They came into the set with the same record and near-identical playoff odds as their opponent. But now those games have been played, and the Mariners have a three-game advantage over Toronto in the race for the last playoff spot. They outscored the Jays 19-4 while pushing them plenty far back in the race to October.
Hisashi Iwakuma pitched 6.2 scoreless innings, with five strikeouts and one walk. Danny Farquhar, Yoervis Medina, and Fernando Rodney combined to strike out five more, while Charlie Furbush issued another walk. If the other team doesn’t score then the other team doesn’t win, and last night the other team didn’t score.
Kendrys Morales might be coming alive, as evidenced most recently by his first-inning home run. That two-run shot was the only offense of the game, as R.A. Dickey beat the hell out of their peripherals (he walked twice as many as he struck out on the night) the rest of the way before handing the ball over to Brett Cecil, who threw two perfect innings. But the Jays didn’t score, so it was for nothing.
Of all the teams for this to happen against, the Blue Jays are almost the most satisfying. Not that they’re more hated than the Angels or Red Sox – who cares about the Blue Jays? – but because they bring the loudest visiting fan presence. That, and that they’re a fanbase currently swept up in the distant memory turned glorious reality of a playoff chase. The Jays and the M’s aren’t so different, after all. Or at least they weren’t, until the Mariners dismantled Team Canada and kicked their playoff hopes in the gut.
Enjoy a Thursday off day, because this weekend is going to be completely bonkers. It’s the M’s and the Tigers in Detroit for three days, with surprisingly familiar stakes. Last time we looked forward to a big series it was Seattle/Toronto, with both teams boasting the same winning percentage and proximity to the playoffs. Three wins later, and the Mariners have the same winning percentage as Detroit and the two are occupying the same wild card spot. Immediately after controlling their own destiny, the Mariners are back to controlling their own destiny.
Are the Tigers as good as the Mariners? Is Austin Jackson going to be met with animosity given that his departure came right before the team was severely thinned out by injuries and depth issues? Do the Mariners have the pitching advantage over the historically rotation-rich Tigers in all three games? James Paxton vs. Rick Porcello. Felix Hernandez vs. David Price. Chris Young vs. Robbie Ray. You be the judge.
The games only get more and more important from here on out, but this could, once again, be a series we’ll remember for years and years to come. Are you going to forget that Felix start against the Blue Jays any time ever? Odds are no, because it was one of the most important and exciting Mariners wins since the team’s little decade-long “glory” phase. The Mariners had a critical homestand. That homestand’s done now, and the Mariners only lost one of the nine games. Now things get extra wild.