Seattle Mariners News: No “Must-Win” Games, But…


The Los Angeles Angels are the 2014 AL West champions, ending the Oakland Athletics’ two year reign at the top of the division. It’s been a few years since the Angels were here – they last claimed the division’s top spot in 2009, which, incidentally, was the last time the Seattle Mariners finished above .500. The Mariners have yet to clinch a winning record, of course, though they had a shot last night and will have another opportunity today.

Angels five, Mariners nothing. This was a fantastic pitcher’s duel between James Paxton and C.J. Wilson, to be sure. An ugly, unfortunate seventh inning meant a big loss, but up to the point where David Freese‘s liner bounced past an off-balance Chris Denorfia this game was simply two pitchers at their best.

Paxton went 6.2 innings while striking out eight Angels, including Mike Trout three times. Trout actually earned himself a golden sombrero when he went down swinging to end the Angels’ big seventh. Paxton issued one walk, and it was in the seventh, and it was intentional. He allowed four hits, two of which were back-to-back singles right before the Erick Aybar intentional walk. Those three runners all scored, good for three earned runs. But really, he was so, so good, and while it’s not entirely accurate to say that Denorfia’s error led to this loss, it sure felt like it. James Paxton certainly wasn’t the weak link, that’s for sure.

Wilson, for his part, held the Mariners to only a Justin Smoak single on the night. He walked three, but whatever, one-hitter. C.J. struck out seven in seven, then gave way to perfect innings from Joe Smith and Huston Street. The Mariners did so close to nothing against the Angels that the seventh felt like an inevitability. Somebody had to reach out and grab this win, and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be the M’s.

And the Royals won. And the Tigers lost. And The Athletics lost. Which means Los Angeles won the division. Which also means the Tigers are down to just a half-game lead in the Cenral. Which means that Oakland and Kansas City are tied for the first wild card spot. And which means the Mariners are now back to being two full games out, with one less game to play.

Even keeping in mind the Royals’ suspended game, which is going to be completed on Monday, the Mariners are in a tough spot. They’re the one team in the running who’s going to practically need a tear to make the playoffs at this point. It’s important to note that over the last ten games, none of the Central/wild card teams have played better than .500 ball. It’s more important to note that there are roughly ten games left on everyone’s schedule, and everything’s on the line.

The Mariners could go 4-7 the rest of the way and make the playoffs, technically. It would just require a worse finish by the Royals, and depending on another team’s collapse isn’t exactly the strategy we should expect the Mariners to favor. No, this is going to take a real push. The Mariners can make the playoffs by outplaying their opponents down the stretch. They have a week and a half to play awesome baseball, the awesomest baseball, and if they can do that then the city will never forget them.

For now though, there’s one more Angel Stadium game to worry about. Felix Hernandez vs. Jered Weaver, 7:05 start time. Felix could use another big start or two to fend off Corey Kluber and secure his place as the top AL Cy Young candidate. Felix could use another big start or two because the Mariners need every last win they can get the rest of the way. Everything’s on the line. Now it’s up to them to just never ever lose again. Easy enough, right?