Table Setter: Mariners have no room for error in biggest series of the season

Sep 13, 2021, 10:30 AM | Updated: Sep 14, 2021, 2:36 am
Mariners Servais Kelenic...
Jarred Kelenic homered each of the last two days, but the M's lost both games. (Getty)

The Mariners could have made things easier on themselves going into a make-or-break, three-game series against the Boston Red Sox that starts on Monday night.

But let’s be honest. These are the 2021 Seattle Mariners. Does it even count if their backs aren’t against the wall?

Related: Mariners lose series to Arizona Diamondbacks

Seattle got within a game of a playoff spot with a win Friday night, only to lose two straight and drop a series at T-Mobile Park to an Arizona team that last won a series on the road in April. It’s not what you want.

And yet the Mariners (77-66) are still very much alive heading into this week, because their schedule allows them to be. The Red Sox (81-64) currently hold the second and final American League wild card spot, and they’re just three games ahead of Seattle. So if the M’s sweep, they’ll be tied with Boston. That alone doesn’t guarantee that Seattle would be tied for a playoff spot should that happen, however, as the Yankees (79-63) are between the two teams at just a game behind the Red Sox.

Don’t forget about Oakland, either. They have an identical record to the Mariners going into Monday’s slate of MLB play, and Seattle has seven games with the Athletics over the final three weeks of the season beginning with four games at the Oakland Coliseum next Monday.

The big thing with the Mariners right now, and this isn’t some big revelation, is that they just flat-out need to play better than they have been. There is no room for error going forward, especially since the offense has been sputtering for essentially three weeks now. Seattle has scored five runs or more just six times over their last 16 games, a stretch in which they’ve gone 8-8 despite a five-game winning streak lodged in the middle of it and 10 games combined against the Royals (65-78) and D-backs (47-96).

Seattle’s pitching generally keeps the M’s in games, but at this point in the season the concerns of pitchers hitting a wall are very real. The Mariners need some hitters to step up, and quickly. Just look at the team’s success rate when it scores at least four runs (61-22) versus when it’s held to three or less (16-44).

There may be some good news on that front despite the events of this weekend. Mitch Haniger has hit safely in seven of his last games, and he homered on both Saturday and Sunday. Jarred Kelenic has also started to get rolling, homering in back-to-back games just like Haniger, hitting safely in eight of his last 10, and producing some hits for extra bases (three homers and two doubles over that stretch).

But that also highlights the struggles the Mariners have had recently with getting runners on base, as the four homers Haniger and Kelenic hit produced all but one of the runs they scored on Saturday and Sunday.

One thing that could end up working in Seattle’s favor, however, is the timing of this series against the Red Sox. Boston has lost five of its last seven games, including a walk-off defeat to the White Sox on Sunday. And if it’s going to be a competition of which team can dust itself off quicker after a tough weekend, it’s not crazy to think the Mariners hold the advantage.

Mariners-Red Sox probables

Monday: Logan Gilbert (SEA) vs. Eduardo Rodriguez (BOS), 7:10 p.m.
Tuesday: Tyler Anderson (SEA) vs. Nathan Eovaldi (BOS), 7:10 p.m.
Wednesday: Marco Gonzales (SEA) vs. TBD (BOS), 1:10 p.m.

Coverage for each game begins on 710 ESPN Seattle with the pregame show 70 minutes before first pitch.

Follow Brent Stecker on Twitter.

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