State of the Mariners: Where things stand with magic number at 2

Sep 29, 2022, 12:00 AM | Updated: 1:52 pm

Mariners J.P. Crawford Jarred Kelenic...

J.P. Crawford and Jarred Kelenic of the Mariners take the field against Texas on Sept. 28, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners may be as little as a day away from officially ending their long postseason drought.

Does it feel real yet?

Wednesday: Mariners bounce back, beat Rangers 3-1

The magic number for the Mariners is down to just two after they beat the Texas Rangers 3-1 on Wednesday night and the Baltimore Orioles lost to the Boston Red Sox on Thursday afternoon. That means that any combination of Mariners wins and Orioles losses adding up to two locks up Seattle’s first trip to the American League playoffs since 2001, so it could happen as soon as Friday.

That might be just the first step for the M’s, though.

At 84-70, Seattle is currently in the third and final AL wild card spot, but the Mariners are still very much in play for the top wild card. And that’s certainly the spot you want if you can get it, because it’s the only wild card that comes with home games in the opening round of the playoffs.

MLB wild card standings

Let’s break down where the M’s stand now and a few more things you need to know about their playoff push.

What the Mariners have left

Entering Thursday, the Mariners have just eight games remaining in the regular season.

They will wrap up their three-game series with the Rangers (66-88) at 6:40 p.m. Thursday night, sending Marco Gonzales to the mound against Texas starter Jon Gray.

Following that will be a three-game weekend set against the Oakland A’s (56-99), after which the M’s will play their final series against the Detroit Tigers (62-92). That will be a four-game set in three days, with a doubleheader on the docket for Tuesday, Oct. 4.

Who the M’s are jockeying with

Seattle goes into Thursday trailing the Toronto Blue Jays (87-69) by two games for the top wild card. The Blue Jays are off Thursday, then welcome the Red Sox (74-81) to Toronto for three games, followed by a three-game set at Baltimore to wrap up the season. Toronto is 4-6 over its last 10 games and is coming off two straight losses to the AL East champion New York Yankees.

The Tampa Bay Rays (85-70) are only a half-game ahead of the M’s for the second wild card. They finish up their series at AL Central champion Cleveland Guardians (87-68) on Thursday, then go to AL West champion Houston (102-54) for three and then Boston for three. Tampa Bay is 7-12 over its last 19 games, including losses in six of its last nine games.

The Baltimore Orioles (80-76) are on their last legs, currently five games behind the Mariners for the final wild card. The O’s have lost five of their last six after dropping three games in their four-game series against Boston. It doesn’t get any easier for Baltimore with the Yankees in New York for three games next, then three games at home with Toronto. Even if the Mariners lose the rest of their games, Baltimore needs to win at least five of its six remaining games to get to 85 wins and beat out Seattle (current at 84 wins) for a postseason berth. The M’s own the tiebreaker over the Orioles due to their 4-2 advantage in the teams’ head-to-head record.

The state of the Mariners

Seattle took a big step Wednesday night toward shaking off a rotten final road trip with its 3-1 win over the Rangers at T-Mobile Park. Going into that game, the Mariners had gone just 4-8 over their previous 12.

Prior to Wednesday, the Mariners’ offense had scored one run or less in six of their previous 10 games, so the three runs in the win over Texas actually felt like a move in the right direction.

“We’ve had a nice year, but we need to get it turned, and hopefully it turned in the right direction tonight,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said after Wednesday’s win, which featured a quality start by rookie George Kirby, three scoreless innings from the bullpen, and a clean defensive game, something the M’s had a lot of earlier in the year but has eluded them in recent weeks.

Injuries to key players have played a big role in the Mariners’ recent swoon, but they’re seemingly getting healthier.

Eugenio Suárez, who leads the Mariners in home runs and RBIs and has played strong defense at third base all season, returned Tuesday from the 10-day injured list. He still has a fracture in the tip of his right index finger but has been able to be Seattle’s designated hitter the last two games. After a shaky night at the plate Tuesday, he was huge for the M’s on Wednesday, going 3 for 3 with a walk and an RBI double to the wall in center field that put Seattle on the board in the first inning.

With throwing a concern for Suárez with his finger, Ty France has shifted from first base to third for the M’s in recent games. However, Suárez is expected to return to the hot corner Thursday night for the first time since his injury.

Jerry Dipoto Show: Suárez returning to 3B, Julio update, Kelenic’s role

Center fielder Julio Rodríguez, the front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year, is currently on the 10-day injured list with a lower back strain. The Mariners expect their leadoff hitter and most talented player to return Monday when they begin their final series against Detroit. Jarred Kelenic has taken over in center with Rodríguez out of action.

Switch-hitting catcher Cal Raleigh, who has 25 home runs this season and has been a big positive behind the plate, has been in and out of the lineup lately due to a jammed left thumb. The injury, which dates back to Sept. 16, can be bothersome as it’s on the hand he uses to catch roughly 150 pitches a game. Raleigh sat out Wednesday’s game.

Who goes where

In the opening round of the playoffs, the first wild card team (the spot currently held by Toronto) hosts the second wild card team (currently Tampa Bay) in a best-of-three series, with all games played at the first wild card team’s stadium.

The third wild card team (currently Seattle) will play its best-of-three series on the road against the lowest-ranked division winner, which will be the AL Central’s Guardians.

The third wild card is arguably favorable over the second wild card, especially considering Seattle went 6-1 this season against Cleveland. Additionally, the winner of that series will go on to face the No. 2 seed from the AL in the Division Series, which is likely to be the Yankees, who the Mariners went 4-2 against in 2022. Seattle, meanwhile, went 7-12 this year against Houston, which goes into Thursday with a magic number of one to clinch the top seed over the Yankees.

How to listen to the Mariners

Coverage of all remaining Mariners games will be carried on Seattle Sports 710 AM, the flagship station of the Mariners Radio Network. That includes Sunday, Oct. 2, when M’s coverage will be joined in progress on Seattle Sports after the Seahawks-Lions game (the Seahawks postgame show will be exclusive to KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM this week) and simulcast on 770 AM in the Seattle area.

Listeners in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia and Alaska can stream M’s games on and the Seattle Sports app. Click here for details.

Here is full info on radio coverage of the last eight M’s regular season games:

On Seattle Sports 710 AM

Thursday, Sept. 29: M’s vs. Rangers — pregame 5:30 p.m., first pitch 6:40
Friday, Sept. 30: M’s vs. A’s — pregame 5:30 p.m., first pitch 6:40
Saturday, Oct. 1: M’s vs. A’s — pregame noon, first pitch 1:10 p.m.

On 770 AM and joined in progress on 710 AM

Sunday, Oct. 2: M’s vs. A’s — Trident Talk 11 a.m. and pregame noon (exclusively on 770), first pitch 1:10 p.m.

On Seattle Sports 710 AM

Monday, Oct. 3: M’s vs. Tigers — pregame 5:30 p.m., first pitch 6:40
Tuesday, Oct. 4 (Game 1): M’s vs. Tigers — pregame 2 p.m., first pitch 3:10
Tuesday, Oct. 4 (Game 2): M’s vs. Tigers — pregame after Game 1, first pitch 6:40
Wednesday, Oct. 5: M’s vs. Tigers — pregame noon, first pitch 1:10 p.m.

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