Mariners lock up 2nd AL wild card, going to Toronto for playoff series
The Mariners’ return to the postseason will go down a new path rather than a familiar one.
Seattle clinched the No. 2 wild card from the American League after their magic number for the spot went from two to zero in a matter of minutes Tuesday. First was Seattle’s win in the opener of a doubleheader sweep of the Detroit Tigers, then came the Tampa Bay Rays being handed a 6-0 loss to the Red Sox when a game in the bottom of the fifth inning was called official following a long rain delay. That locks in a Mariners trip to Toronto for a best-of-three series against the No. 1 wild card Blue Jays, while No. 3 wild card Tampa Bay will go to Cleveland.
The Mariners-Blue Jays series will begin Friday. Game 1 on Friday and Game 2 on Saturday will both start at 1:07 p.m., and if a third game is necessary Sunday it will start at 11:07 a.m.
After the Blue Jays clinched the top wild card on Monday, the Mariners were left with two paths in the playoffs. If they fell below the Rays (now 86-75) into the No. 3 wild card, it would have meant a series in Cleveland against the AL Central champion Guardians, with the winner going to the AL Division Series against the AL East champion Yankees. Seattle has seen both of those franchises multiple times in the postseason before – New York in the 1995 ALDS, 2000 AL Championship Series and 2001 ALCS, and Cleveland in the 1995 ALCS and 2001 ALDS.
Instead, the M’s will meet fellow 1977 MLB expansion team Toronto for the first time in the playoffs, with the winner going on to face the AL West champion Astros, another team Seattle has never encountered in the postseason (though the two teams are plenty familiar as division foes).
The Mariners went 5-2 against the Blue Jays in the regular season but 1-2 in Toronto. That series at the Rogers Centre came all the way back in May, which was before Seattle began a big turnaround in June and the Blue Jays changed from Charlie Montoyo to John Schneider as manager. The Mariners later swept a four-game series over Toronto at T-Mobile Park in the middle of their 14-game winning streak into the All-Star break.
By clinching the No. 2 seed, it does show a sign of progress for the Mariners from last season. In 2021, Seattle won 90 games for the sixth-best record in the AL, a spot that did not come with a playoff berth until the brackets were expanded this year. Though the 2022 Mariners (89-72) need to win their final game of the regular season at 1:10 p.m. Wednesday to get to 90 wins, they are guaranteed to finish with the fifth-best record in the AL.
Seattle clinched the end of its 21-year playoff drought (technically a 20-season drought) on Friday night with an epic walk-off win over the Oakland A’s. For the first time since the early days of the drought in 2003, the Mariners will finish back-to-back seasons with a winning record.