Fann: 6 Mariners moments that will make you believe in postseason run

Sep 15, 2022, 4:48 PM

Mariners Julio Rodríguez...

Julio Rodríguez tosses his bat to celebrate his home run against the Braves on Sept. 11. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners are currently 80-62, a whopping 18 games over .500, with 20 games left to play. Fangraphs is giving them 98.8% odds to make the postseason and end the franchise’s notorious 21-year-old drought.

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With Seattle facing sub-.500 teams the rest of the way and the Orioles still having to play the Blue Jays (twice), Yankees, Red Sox and Astros, I feel confident saying the Mariners will make the playoffs. (If they happen to get catastrophically cold and the Orioles run the table, I’ll be happy to take the blame.)

That means the conversation has shifted from if the Mariners will be in the postseason to which seed they’ll have, who they’ll be playing and, most importantly, whether or not they can actually make a run. And maybe my glasses are too rose colored to see clearly, but I’d tell you that, “Yes, Seattle is equipped to be a legitimate problem for the other American League teams in contention.”

The pitching staff is dominant top to bottom, the lineup has enough power to score in bunches and there have been moments throughout the season that indicate this roster is built for the playoff stage. That last part is key, and I’ve pulled six instances that tell me the Mariners are ready for October baseball.

1. Taking two out of three on the road against the Mets.

This came all the way back in mid-May, but it remains notable nonetheless. The Mets currently lead the Braves in the NL East by a half-game and have been one of baseball’s top clubs all season long. Each of the three matchups were decided by a single run, and Seattle won games started by Max Scherzer and Carlos Carrasco.

Diego Castillo shook off a rough start to his season to shut the door with two strikeouts in the ninth inning of the rubber match while Julio Rodríguez, Jesse Winker, Ty France and Cal Raleigh all homered in the series.

2. Julio Rodríguez’s clutch and timely homer after dustup in Houston.

Benches cleared back on June 6 after Houston reliever Héctor Neris threw behind (and grazed) Ty France in the top of the ninth inning. Rodríguez came up to bat after tempers cooled and sent the fourth pitch he saw over the right field fence for a two-run homer.

The big fly provided Seattle with two much-needed insurance runs to extend the lead to 7-4, and also offered our first glimpse of Rodríguez being made for the moment (against the rival Astros, no less).

3. A four-game sweep of the Blue Jays.

Sandwiched in the middle of Seattle’s 14-game winning streak was the dramatic home sweep of Toronto. The Mariners won the opener comfortably, but then it took an Eugenio Suárez walk-off home run in the 11th to win Game 2 and a trio of Carlos Santana home runs to take Games 3 and 4. Clutch pitching was featured throughout the series.

4. Tagging Gerrit Cole for six runs in the first inning.

We’ve seen the Mariners bats go dormant on a number of occasions this season, and there’s no question that everyone’s biggest question is whether Seattle can score enough in October. But we have seen this team light up an ace, most notably on Aug. 3 when Seattle jumped on Cole for six runs in the top of the first.

A stunned Yankee Stadium watched home runs from Suárez, Santana and Jarred Kelenic leave the yard. Cole is having a down year by his standards (3.30 ERA), but it remains a noteworthy performance worth remembering.

5. A 13-inning shutout of the Yankees.

After taking two of three in New York, the Mariners did the same at T-Mobile Park the following week. That included arguably the game of the year on Aug. 9 when Seattle shutout the Yankees over 13 innings in a dramatic and emotionally exhausting 1-0 victory.

Luis Castillo dueled Cole for the second time in as many starts, pitching eight scoreless innings with seven strikeouts in his home debut, and the bullpen pitched an additional five frames without allowing a run. That, of course, included three innings where a runner started on second base with no outs. It was peak chaos ball that showcased this team’s innate ability to find ways to win games.

6. An epic ninth inning against the Braves.

Last Sunday is surely still fresh in your mind, which means you’re still very aware of the emotional highs and lows of the ninth inning against Atlanta.

Leading 6-2 in the ninth, it appeared that Seattle was set to cruise to a 2-1 series victory against the defending champs. A three-run home run from Michael Harris II and a go-ahead two-run shot from Robbie Grossman left a packed house at T-Mobile Park in disbelief.

Trailing 7-6 going into the bottom half, it was Rodríguez and Suárez who again played hero with a pair of solo home runs, the latter being a walk-off to left center that no Mariners fan will ever forget.

It was that moment, maybe more so than any mentioned above, that illustrates the mental toughness, buy-in and talent of this club compared to previous iterations. It’s why nobody in the Mariners clubhouse is talking merely about making the playoffs. Ending the drought will be sweet. Making a run in October would be sweeter, and I’m not going to tell you they can’t do it.

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