JOE FANN

Fann: With 99% playoff odds, Mariners’ path to top wild card

Sep 5, 2022, 10:13 AM | Updated: Sep 6, 2022, 9:59 am
Mariners Julio Rodríguez Ty France...
Julio Rodríguez celebrates with Ty France after France's for the Mariners on Saturday in Cleveland. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Seattle’s six-game road trip ended with a marathon Sunday that featured 11 innings of baseball and a four-hour rain delay, all culminating in a 6-3 road win for the Mariners over the Guardians.

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The dramatic victory capped a three-game series sweep over Cleveland and a 6-0 road trip, giving the Mariners seven wins in a row and victories in nine of their last 10. That streak ended with a loss to the White Sox on Monday, though Seattle currently is still tied for the American League’s No. 1 wild card spot with the Rays and a half-game up on the third-place Blue Jays.

Baltimore is 4 1/2 games outside of the playoff picture as really the only other team in the hunt. The Twins, who are a game back of the Guardians for the AL Central lead, are 6 1/2 games back while the White Sox and Red Sox are 7 1/2 and nine games back, respectively.

Seattle is now 17 games over .500 at 76-59, and FanGraphs gives the club 99.2% odds to make the playoffs. That means it’s time to shift the discussion from if the Mariners will make the playoffs to what it will take in order to clinch the No. 1 wild card. Remember, only the top wild card gets to play at home to open the postseason. That team will host an entire three-game series against the No. 2 wild card, with the No. 3 wild card traveling to play the division winner with the lowest winning percentage.

Let’s take a look at what each of the aforementioned teams in the wild card hunt have on tap this week.

1. Seattle Mariners (76-59)

Standing: Tied for first wild card (Tampa Bay owns tiebreaker); up five games for playoff spot
Last 10: 8-2
What’s on tap: Two more vs. White Sox, three vs. Braves

Notable stat: There are a pair of good ones courtesy of Mariners stats guru and PR man Alex Mayer. The Mariners are the first team in American League history with multiple undefeated six-plus game road trips in a single season. Additionally, until Sunday’s rain delay, Mariners starters had gone five-plus innings with two or less walks in 16 consecutive games, a new franchise record.

The skinny: It’s hard to believe the Mariners could have near 100% odds of making the playoffs when the Orioles are only five games back. Then it makes sense when you consider that all three teams chasing Seattle are in the AL East. The Orioles and Blue Jays play eight more times this season. The Rays and Blue Jays also play eight more times down the stretch. That’s a lot of guaranteed losses for one of those clubs. What’s more, Seattle owns the regular season tiebreaker against Toronto and Baltimore.

2. Tampa Bay Rays (75-58)

Standing: Tied for first wild card (owns tiebreaker); up a half-game for top spot
Last 10: 7-3
What’s on tap: Two more vs. Red Sox, three at Yankees

Notable stat: Tampa Bay’s hot stretch has been fueled by standout pitching. Entering Monday, the Rays led all of baseball with a 2.87 FIP since Aug. 1. Notably, the Mariners ranked tied for second with Houston at 3.11.

The skinny: The implosion of the New York Yankees has the Rays just five games back in the AL East. It’s not impossible that the Mariners open the playoffs against New York, albeit it is an unlikely outcome.

3. Toronto Blue Jays (75-59)

Standing: Third wild card; up 4 1/2 over No. 4 Baltimore
Last 10: 7-3
What’s on tap: Two more at Orioles, three at Rangers

Notable stat: The Blue Jays have been treading water for a while now with a lineup that continues to underwhelm despite its vast star power. Entering Monday, Toronto’s bats had a collective wRC+ of 98 since Aug. 1.

The skinny: FanGraphs still gives the Blue Jays 97.9% odds to make the playoffs compared to the Orioles at 3.2%. However, given their eight remaining games against each other, Baltimore still very much controls its own destiny. This week’s series between the two could turn the wild card picture on its head.

4. Baltimore Orioles (71-64)

Standing: 4 1/2 games back of AL’s final wild card
Last 10: 5-5
What’s on tap: Two more at Blue Jays, three vs. Red Sox

Notable stat: The Orioles refuse to go away thanks to consistent pitching and relentlessly clutch hitting. Entering Monday, Baltimore ranked 10th in wRC+ and 11th in FIP since Aug. 1.

The skinny: Baltimore had a big chance to make things interesting against the Blue Jays to start this week, but Toronto swept a doubleheader between the two teams on Monday.

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Date Starting Pitcher
Saturday, September 24 @ 4:10 pm

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