Fann: Mariners’ path to playoffs — A look at wild card competition

Aug 18, 2022, 2:30 PM | Updated: 10:01 pm

Mariners J.P. Crawford...

Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford leaps after getting a force out on Toronto's Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on July 9. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners will enjoy a well-earned day off on Thursday after sweeping a three-game series in Anaheim against the Angels. Next up is a trio of games in Oakland over the weekend before returning to Seattle for a brief five-game homestand next week.

Dipoto: Why wild card-leading Mariners are now tough to beat

This 24-hour hiatus makes for a good time to check in on the American League wild card race and evaluate where things stand with 43 games left to play for Seattle. Let’s look at the current standings, including each contender’s recent results and a look at the upcoming schedule for each club.

No. 1 wild card: Seattle Mariners (65-54)

Standing: Up one full game
Last 10: 7-3
Most recent series: 3-0 at Angels
What’s next: Three games at Athletics

Notable stat: The Mariners pitching staff has a 26.5% strikeout percentage since Aug. 1. That’s the second best rate in all of baseball behind only the Twins (27.8%).

The skinny: Seattle has positioned itself perfectly amid a crowded wild card race. The Mariners are 1.5 games ahead of the Rays and Blue Jays, who currently hold the final two of the AL’s three wild cards, while owning the easiest strength of schedule down the stretch. Claiming the No. 1 wild card spot would assure the Mariners of at least two home playoff games in the best-of-three wild card round. It’s worth noting that should Seattle finish No. 2 behind Toronto, it’s possible starting pitcher and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray wouldn’t be part of that three-game series. That’s assuming Ray remains unvaccinated to COVID-19, as was the case when he missed Seattle’s series in Toronto earlier this season.

No. 2 wild card: Tampa Bay Rays (63-54)

Games back:
Last 10: 6-4
Most recent results: 2-1 at Yankees, 1-0 at Royals
What’s next: Three more games vs. Royals

Notable stat: The Rays’ pitchers lead all of baseball with an FIP (fielding independent pitching) of 2.90 since Aug. 1. In that same timespan, however, Tampa Bay’s under-performing lineup ranks 22nd in wRC+.

The skinny: The Rays will always be a pesky team led by standout pitching, but the lack of consistent hitting could make it hard for them to top the Yankees or Astros in October.

No. 3 wild card: Toronto Blue Jays (63-54)

Games back:
Last 10: 4-6
Most recent results: 1-2 vs. Orioles, 1-0 at Yankees
What’s next: Three more games at Yankees

Notable stat: The Blue Jays own a 4.32 ERA since Aug. 1, which ranks 23rd in all of baseball. That’s largely due to a woeful starting rotation. Toronto has allowed at least six runs in seven of its last 11 games.

The skinny: At some point Toronto’s starters have to figure it out if the Jays are going to be contenders. Pitching around the American League is simply too good to expect to win a slugfest every day. José Berríos has allowed 13 combined runs over his last two starts. Yusei Kikuchi owns a 5.25 ERA on the season. Kevin Gausman allowed five earned runs in his last start. Even All-Star Alek Manoah has been human with four earned runs in his last outing.

In the hunt: Minnesota Twins (61-55)

Games back: 1.5
Last 10: 5-5
Most recent series: 3-0 vs. Royals
What’s next: Four games vs. Rangers

Notable stat: The Twins lineup ranks 10th in wRC+ in August, with their pitching staff leading all of baseball in strikeout percentage (27.8%)

The skinny: Minnesota got a scare when newly-acquired starter Tyler Mahle left Wednesday’s outing after just two innings. An MRI on his shoulder came back clean, and the Twins have labeled it as shoulder fatigue. He’s listed as day-to-day. Jorge Lopez and Michael Fulmer were also notable deadline acquisitions to join a bullpen headlined by Jhoan Duran. Beyond being in the wild card chase, Minnesota is just a game behind Cleveland in the AL Central.

In the hunt: Baltimore Orioles (61-57)

Games back: 2.5
Last 10: 5-5
Most recent results: 2-1 at Blue Jays, 0-1 vs. Cubs
What’s next: Three games vs. Red Sox

Notable stat: Despite a lack of star power, the Orioles bats rank seventh in wRC+ in August.

The skinny: Baltimore refuses to go away due in large part to a stellar home record of 33-21. It also helps that the Orioles have won four out their last five against the Blue Jays. Ultimately, without a significant addition at the trade deadline, it’s hard to imagine this underdog story making it to October.

In the hunt: Chicago White Sox (61-58)

Games back: 3.0
Last 10: 6-4
Most recent series: 2-2 vs. Astros
What’s next: Three games at Guardians

Notable stat: Not a single member of the White Sox lineup has 15 home runs and only three players have double digit homers (José Abreu with 14, Andrew Vaughn with 13, and Luis Robert wiht 12).

The skinny: It’s hard to believe the White Sox have a minus-12 run differential on the season, but it’s been a struggle all year for (in my opinion) the most disappointing team in baseball. Injuries have been a huge storyline for Chicago this season with Tim Anderson being the latest star to land on the injured list. Dylan Cease is an AL Cy Young candidate with a 2.09 ERA but Lucas Giolito has been a mess with a 4.92 ERA.

In the hunt: Boston Red Sox (59-60)

Games back: 5.0
Last 10: 5-5
Most recent series: 2-1 at Pirates
What’s next: Three games at Orioles

Notable stat: The Red Sox bats have been woeful in August with a wRC+ of just 86 (100 is always the league average) for the month.

The skinny: It’s not too late for Boston to make a run. Kiké Hernández just returned from injury and Trevor Story shouldn’t be too far behind him. The issue is that the Red Sox have a brutal schedule upcoming with series against the Orioles, Blue Jays, Rays and Twins in order.

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