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Moore: 2018 could end up being best Mariners’ season yet

The Mariners are off to one of the best starts in franchise history. (AP)

A lot of people wondered how the Mariners would do against tougher competition, and we found out last week when they swept the Angels and split with the Red Sox. Going 3-0 against a division rival and 2-2 against one of the best teams in baseball, Scott Servais’ team showed that it certainly measured up.

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And it was nice to see them win with so many fans at Safeco Field. Nearly 160,000 showed up for the four-game series against the Red Sox, and typically when this has happened in the past, the Mariners play some of their worst baseball and disappoint fans who were just trying to get on board. This time they came through in the strangest ways, rallying from a 6-3 deficit while overcoming their worst inning of the year on Friday and riding a shutout performance from journeyman soft-tosser Wade LeBlanc on Saturday.

In my book, that more than offset a 2-1 loss on Thursday and a 9-3 defeat on Sunday that was surprising only because the Mariners have seemingly been in every game they’ve played this season.

Now we’ll see if they can do it on the road, starting Tuesday with three games against the Yankees followed by another three in Boston. If they go 2-4, I wouldn’t be all that concerned. The Yankees and Red Sox have the two best MLB records at home. If they go 3-3, terrific; 4-2, 5-1 or 6-0 and I’ll start to think they could win the AL West and the World Series too.

Think about this: after those two series, the Mariners play three in Baltimore, and the Orioles have the worst MLB record at 20-50. Chances are good that you’ll sweep the O’s or at least go 2-1. So let’s say you win one in New York, one in Boston and two in Baltimore. The Mariners would come home at the halfway point of the season at 50-31, which would put them on a pace for 100 wins.

To be honest, I’m still having a hard time making sense of what’s happening with the Mariners. This is crazy, to think they could go 4-5 in their next nine games and be on a pace to go 100-62. I thought they’d go 81-81. Nothing stops them. Maybe I’ve written that or said that before. But you’ve seen it, do you have any plausible explanations?

I truly feel there are intangible things in play here, things like mojo and magic, as if the baseball gods are finally shining on the Mariners after throwing them shade for so many years. By the way, I’ve never thrown shade before, and I don’t even know if I used it in the right context, and besides that, it’s questionable if baseball gods even exist.

Whatever, at this point it would be more foolish to think this standard of play will suddenly stop than to think it will continue. We’ve gone through almost half a season of the Mariners defying experts and dunces, long enough to look at it as a trend that will take them to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.

And as the season plays out, it’s going to be one of the weirdest three-plus months if my projections are accurate. I’m guessing the Astros are going to win the AL West with a record of 105-57. And now I’m thinking the Mariners will finish 95-67. One more prediction: the Angels will finish 85-77.

That’s why I said it could be weird. At some point in September, maybe even August, we’re going to look at the standings and see that the Astros are uncatchable. We’re also going to notice that the Angels aren’t going to catch the Mariners either. The Angels are already eight games behind the Mariners in the “race” for the second wild card spot. And Mike Scioscia’s team has Shohei Ohtani and Garrett Richards among others on the disabled list.

Equally good news, there aren’t any other AL teams poised to make a run at the Mariners if the Angels fade. There’s not another team in the wild card chase that has a winning record; Oakland’s currently the best at 36-36.

So I’m guesstimating the Mariners might be playing the last month of the season to try and secure home field for the wild card game against the Yankees or Red Sox. At the very worst, even if the second-place team in the AL East finishes with a better record than the Mariners and earns the home-field advantage, Servais can set it up so that James Paxton is the starter in that game. And maybe it would help, too, if the Yankees and Red Sox fight it out to the finish for the AL East title and somehow the loser will be burned out and fatigued or in some sort of a letdown spot when they face the Mariners.

Apparently I have a lot of time on my hands to be thinking about this kind of stuff already, but what the heck, for me it’s more fun to speculate about the Mariners’ chances than the Seahawks’ in the summertime. With that in mind, allow me to take you one step farther. This will require a bit more from your imagination. At last check of the odds from Las Vegas, the Mariners were 13-1 to win the World Series. Only five teams had better odds: in order, the Yankees, Astros, Red Sox, Nationals and Cubs.

Listen, people who go to the track will tell you that a horse with 13-1 odds occasionally wins the race. It’s not entirely out of the question. All I’m saying is this: 2018 could end up being better than 2001 and 1995 combined.

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