The Mariners have won eight games in a row to revive their chances of making the playoffs thanks in part to a favorable schedule. Can they stay hot?
The Mariners appeared to be left for dead after getting swept in Texas at the end of August, but they have responded since, taking three of four from the AL West-leading Rangers at Safeco Field and sweeping the lowly Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Angels.
We should have seen this coming. The Mariners’ schedule down the stretch was favorable, allowing them to beat up on two teams in the basement of the division and offering little resistance. This is not to take away from the efforts of the players, of course. This recent hot streak to keep the Mariners in the playoff race just when their odds appeared to be slipping away can be attributed to dominating pitching performances and an offense that has been hitting balls out of the park and manufacturing runs all at once.
With 16 games left to play in the regular season, the schedule has once again bestowed a gift upon the Mariners. The next homestand, starting tomorrow, will see two Wild Card contending teams come to town, the Houston Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays. The Mariners see the Astros this time of year every year, but thanks to the fates, a three-game series against the Blue Jays couldn’t come at a better time.
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The question is whether the Mariners can beat these contending teams. Cleaning up against the A’s and Angles is one thing, but continuing their recent rash of good starting pitching against a loaded Toronto lineup is another thing entirely.
The Mariners have to leapfrog the Detroit Tigers and either the Blue Jays or the Baltimore Orioles to earn a one-game Wild Card playoff. They are currently 1.5 games behind Toronto. They have a chance to erase that deficit in the standings, but they have to keep it going with some truly heroic starting pitching against the Jays and the Astros at home.
The key will be to keep the bullpen fresh. When the Mariners have struggled for extended stretches this year, it has been because they couldn’t get deep into games with their starters. Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma provided the most recent hope for manager Scott Servais and company. The season begins anew with who else but Felix Hernandez tomorrow night in front of what should be a packed house full of fans ready for the playoffs. Boy, are we ready.