The Mariners have an opportunity to make up serious ground against the division-leading Texas Rangers, an opportunity they can’t squander.
The Mariners are likely a long way from being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention as we enter September, but if they want to have a chance at cracking the post-season for the first time since 2001, they have to find a way to beat the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers have the best record in the American League right now. At 78-54, they have a commanding 8.5 game lead over the Houston Astros and a 9.5 game lead over our scrappy, lovable Mariners.
There’s no doubt the team is better than last season. If nothing else, general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais have a plan for the team, which is a step in the right direction for a team previously run by Jack Zdurencik and his obsession with power numbers.
More from Seattle Mariners
- Seattle Mariners trade James Paxton. Deja vu or re-imagining?
- Seattle Mariners: November mailbag – Face of the franchise and more
- Seattle Mariners: Zunino part of 5 player swap. What it means for the M’s.
- Seattle Mariners: Mitch Haniger, and Edgar Martinez headed to Japan
- Seattle Mariners: Trading for Joc Pederson from L.A. – 3 scenarios
However, the American League is full of teams that are flat-out better than the Mariners. Sure, Felix Hernandez is one of the best starting pitchers in the league, Robinson Cano is having a career year, ditto Kyle Seager, and Nelson Cruz is crushing as many balls as ever, but the Rangers, Red Sox, Orioles, and Blue Jays are loaded with talent–their plans have been brewing for several seasons already.
For the Mariners to sneak into the postseason or at least show they can beat good teams, they have to beat the Rangers in at least five of their next six meetings. The Rangers are likely out of reach, barring a colossal collapse or a 1995-esque run, for the AL West divisional crown, but the Mariners have to beat them nonetheless to stay afloat in the Wild Card race with superior clubs surrounding them, and for a second, more crucial reason.
If you’ve been paying attention to Dave Sims’ and Mike Blowers‘ endless hope-encouraging assessments of the standings during telecasts, you know how crucial every game is from here on out to stay in the race. The Mariners have to beat the Rangers because they have to prove they can beat playoff teams if they expect to make the playoffs.
Even if the Mariners falter down the stretch, at least they can build experience facing top-notch baseball teams with survival on the line. That is crucial experience and it builds confidence when you can succeed when all the chips are down. Six of the next nine games are against the Rangers. After those nine games (with a series in Los Angeles sandwiched in there), the Mariners can either look themselves in the mirror and say with confidence they’re a playoff-caliber club, or are at least close, or see plainly they don’t belong.
These next six games against Texas will go a long way to determining the true potential and confidence of this Mariners team going into the offseason. And, if this team can get hot against the best in the American League, who knows? We might be see another 1995-like run to the postseason after all.