The Seattle Mariners recently ended a five-game winning streak, but have still won twelve of their past fourteen. They’ve at last decided to play the way many pundits and fans expected them to this season, and are finally receiving valuable contributions from the players who are most needed for adding to the win column. Contributions have especially come from players who struggled previously this season, are assisting in areas which the team has shown major deficiencies, or both.
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Tom Wilhelmsen is one such example of a player who fits both categories. The Bartender is now nine-of-nine in save opportunities since regaining the closer role – this after facing an ERA north of six and a mid-season demotion to Tacoma. Another is Logan Morrison, who is following up a stellar September a year ago with another hot start to the month: he had three home runs in four games!
A few others with recent hot streaks include Brad Miller, who has hit .360 since August 29, Kyle Seager, who is eight for his last 15 with six walks, and Shawn O’Malley, whose promotion has provided a spark to go along much-needed versatility.
This is all fine and dandy, but the problem with each and every one of these facts is that they come in the tiniest of samples, further illustrating why it might be too little – and being September already, too late.
Yes, the Mariners sit just eight games back of the Texas Rangers for the second wild card spot, and with 23 left to play, they are mathematically alive. As the old saying goes, “it’s not over ‘til it’s over,” and a prime example of this came relatively recently. A large comeback over similar games occurred in 2007, as the Marlins overcame a 7.5 game deficit with 17 remaining to rip the NL East crown from the New York Mets.
Sep 8, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor (12) steals a base against Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano (22) during the sixth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Could the M’s be this year’s version of the ’07 Marlins? It’s possible. After all, the Mariners just wrapped up their longest winning streak this season (although that’s not saying much) – and with obvious team MVP Nelson Cruz sidelined, no less. Adding him back into the lineup – as is expected any day now – can only be beneficial. Now, is a playoff push likely? Definitely not. Fangraphs currently pegs the Mariners at just a 2.1% chance of earning a wild card berth and a mere 0.1% chance of winning the AL west.
Ah, yes, “but 1995!” many will surely shout. Everyone’s favorite year to refer to when being absurdly optimistic shows that with 25 games left to play, the Seattle Mariners were 6.5 games back of the division-leading California Angels. The thing many people forget, however, is that the wild card was not out of reach for that squad. At this juncture in the season they were in a virtual dead heat for the American League wild card and were feeling pretty good about the opportunity to compete in October.
That’s not to discount their astonishing run: not long prior to that stage of the season, most probably thought they were dead in the water. But if this version of the Mariners are to make the playoffs, it would be much more miraculous considering the obstacles in front of them.
Baseball in 2015 is simply a different animal than twenty years ago. With the AL having more parity than ever, the Mariners must hurdle not one or two teams, but seven. The White Sox, Orioles Indians, Rays, Angels, Twins, and Rangers all sit in front of them, creating a bit of a logjam in the dogfight to reach a one game playoff. Luckily for the Mariners, though, 17 of their final 23 games come against AL West opponents, including five versus Texas and six versus Anaheim, providing a prime opportunity to make up ground and at least make things interesting.
I don’t think anyone in their right mind would stand on a soapbox and attempt to convince you that the Mariners will pass up five teams in order to send (hopefully) King Felix Hernandez out to the mound for a do-or-die game on October 6. Maybe the stars are aligning, however. After all, there is a great chance that the first wild card berth will belong to the New York Yankees, a team we all can all surely recall playing in 1995. And hey, we have Edgar Martinez on our side again.
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