Mariners Playoff Race: Are M’s making Buhner-style surge for AL West?

Aug 20, 2023, 3:47 PM | Updated: 4:09 pm

Seattle Mariners Eugenio Suárez Ty France...

Ty France and Eugenio Suárez high five after the Seattle Mariners' win over Houston on Aug. 19, 2023. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

(Bob Levey/Getty Images)

If you’re reading this, it’s safe to guess you’ve heard the story of the 1995 Seattle Mariners a time or two. Their miraculous run to the first playoff appearance and postseason series victory in franchise history is revisited in an almost habitual manner ’round these parts.

Sunday: Suárez homers, Mariners hold off Astros 7-6 to complete sweep

You probably know the role a famous Jay Buhner quote played in that run, too. But if not, it’s pretty timely to retell that story now.

As it goes, the Mariners were in the midst of their late-season push for a wild card spot when the slugging right fielder said something to the effect of: “Forget the wild card. We’re going to win the division.”

And that’s what they did, beating the California Angels (who had collapsed from a 12 1/2-game lead on Aug. 21) in a one-game playoff to win the American League West championship.

That anecdote has been coming up a lot lately, because the 2023 Seattle Mariners have gotten red-hot and don’t seem satisfied with sitting in position for the AL’s third and final wild card.

MLB Standings: Division | Wild card

With Sunday’s tense 7-6 win over the defending World Series champion Astros, the M’s completed their first three-game series sweep in Houston in five years and pushed their current winning streak to six games, which is the longest active streak in the big leagues right now. For good measure, they’ve also guaranteed themselves a season series win over the Astros, having gone 8-2 against Houston with one three-game set left between the two rivals.

What’s really important, though, is that the Mariners are surging while the teams in front of them in the division are heading the other direction. Yep, it’s starting to feel like 1995 all over again.

The Astros, second in the AL West, currently stand just a half-game ahead of the 69-55 Mariners with a 70-55 record, and Houston has lost five of its last seven games.

The division-leading Texas Rangers, meanwhile, lost their fourth straight game Sunday and are now 72-52, only three games ahead of Seattle.

How about that? The Seattle Mariners, who were a true 50-50 team through the first 100 games of the season, are now not just in position to make the playoffs for the second straight year but are within arm’s reach of the division.

As for that wild card race, the Mariners aren’t out of the woods yet. They’re still just a half-game ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays (69-56), who are the first team on the outside looking in. But after them, the Boston Red Sox are three games back, and then it’s the 61-64 Los Angeles Angels (8 1/2 back) and 60-64 New York Yankees (nine games back). Ahead of Seattle are the Astros in the second wild card, and the Tampa Bay Rays (75-51) are safely in the top spot, 5 1/2 games in front of the M’s.

There’s more good news for Seattle when it comes to the upcoming schedule. Their next four series come against teams with sub-.500 records, including three of the worst teams in all of baseball: the White Sox, Royals and Athletics. But it gets considerably steeper after that, especially with the three final series of the season coming against Texas (three games there and four in Seattle) and Houston (three in Seattle).

That’s a recipe for some kind of playoff race for the Mariners down the stretch, though. Beat the Texas teams, take the division, and tell ’em “The Bone” sent ya.

Here’s what the M’s are looking at for the rest of the season.

Where the Seattle Mariners stand

Record: 69-55

Standings: In possession of the AL’s third wild card; third place in AL West (three back of Texas)

Remaining schedule: 3 at White Sox (49-75); 3 vs. Kansas City (40-86); 3 vs. Oakland (34-89); 3 at New York Mets (58-67); 3 at Cincinnati (64-61); 4 at Tampa Bay (75-51); 3 vs. Los Angeles Angels (61-64); 3 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (76-47); 3 at Oakland (34-90); 3 at Texas (72-52); 3 vs. Houston (70-55); 4 vs. Texas (72-52).

More on the M’s

Injury Report: Emerson Hancock hurt, latest on J.P. Crawford
Mariners, Astros clear benches — again — with Caballero in middle
Julio Rodríguez breaks 98-year-old hits record with huge hot streak
Mariners’ Dipoto discusses homegrown Julio and Raleigh thriving
What Dipoto said about Brash and Muñoz pitching the ninth for Seattle Mariners

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