Morosi: ‘Why wouldn’t you love’ where Mariners are in playoff race?

Aug 25, 2023, 11:29 AM | Updated: 11:43 am

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodríguez...

Julio Rodríguez of the Seattle Mariners celebrates after hitting a home run on Aug. 11, 2023. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners enter the final 35-game stretch of the 2023 season on Friday night, and they’re suddenly in the best spot they’ve been since they won on opening day.

Playoff Race: Mariners pass Astros, move within one game of Texas

The M’s (71-56) have been on a huge surge, posting a 21-6 record since July 24, when they fell to 50-50 on the year. That’s been enough to move them into the second of the American League’s three wild card spots, but it actually gets even better than that.

While Seattle has caught fire, their biggest competition in the American League West has gone the opposite direction. The division-leading Texas Rangers have lost seven in a row and enter Friday with a 72-55 record, just a game ahead of the Mariners. The defending World Series champion Houston Astros, meanwhile, have lost seven of their last 11 and are tied with the M’s with a 72-57 record – though Seattle holds the tiebreaker, having guaranteed a season series victory over Houston by winning eight of their 10 head-to-head matchups with just three remaining.

“It feels like we’re getting to a point where it’s going to be in their hands,” said Bob Stelton of Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob on Thursday of the Mariners and their playoff hopes.

Responded MLB Network insider Jon Morosi: “That’s the best way. I would bet, to a man, if you walked in that (Mariners) clubhouse today or tomorrow and said, ‘Hey, what’s your thought about this?’ They would say, ‘Bring it on.’ Like, ‘I want to have to win the division against the teams I’m competing with.'”

As long as the Mariners stay on track into the final week, they should have just that. They end the season with 10 straight games against the Rangers and Astros – three at Texas, three at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park against Houston, and a final four-game home set with the Rangers.

“Basically, that last week with all those games at T-Mobile, consider that the American League West Championship Series,” Morosi said. “Three against Houston and four against Texas, and that’s how it ends. It’s right in front of you. And to be honest, just looking at the standings and how (the Mariners) have played, why wouldn’t you love that right now? You’re the team that’s playing the best. You’re the hottest team right now.”

Current MLB Standings: Division | Wild Card

All this begs a question to be asked: What’s happened to the Rangers?

Texas was a surprise power early on this season in the AL, jumping out to a 40-20 start, and the Rangers kept it up for the most part even into mid-August as they were 72-48 not even two weeks ago.

Morosi shared his view on Texas hitting the skids.

“(Josh) Jung, the really talented rookie third baseman, All-Star, they have not been quite the same team since he’s been out,” he said. “And (All-Star catcher) Jonah Heim was hurt – he came back and he hasn’t really hit necessarily as much as he did in the past. Texas has to really get some momentum going again.”

Even though the Rangers and Astros have hit bumps in the road while Seattle has turned into the hottest team in baseball, you can’t expect it all to be smooth sailing for the M’s until they meet up with their AL West rivals in late September. The good news for the Mariners is their upcoming six-game homestand is made up of two series against the two worst teams in the AL, the Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics. But after that is a tough road trip to play the Mets, Reds and Rays, then a homestand against the Angels and NL West-leading Dodgers.

“Seattle’s month of September is a little bit challenging,” Morosi said. “They’ve got to go to Cincinnati, really good team there. They’ve got to go to Tampa Bay, they’re still in there (as the AL’s top wild card). They’ve got to play the Dodgers, what a great series that’s going to be middle of September. It’s going to be tough. You’re gonna have to earn it. And the Mariners would probably say, ‘Great. We should have to earn it.’ That’s what you want. … I love it. It’s fun. It’s been obviously a long time since the Mariners won the American League West, and I cannot wait just to see how this month of September unfolds with all the excitement, with the expectation.

“The (Mariners’ 21-year playoff) drought was snapped last year, that’s over and done with. Now it’s about building a championship club that can win an American League (championship), that can win a World Series, and I just love that it’s all right in front of them right now.”

The key to a playoff race

Morosi, a Michigan native who covered the Detroit Tigers when World Series champion Jim Leyland managed the team, shared some wisdom from Leyland about playoff races that he thinks the Mariners and their fans should take to heart.

“As a manager, when you’re in a pennant race, you cannot be afraid to lose a game,” Morosi said. “And by that, (Leyland) means if, say that (Mariners reliever Matt) Brash is not pitching today or (Justin) Topa can’t pitch or (Tayler) Saucedo has gone two out of three games and he can’t go today, you have to stick with it. You cannot just (say), ‘I need this win, I gotta go to him now,’ because if you keep doing that, eventually you get to September and everybody is on fumes and you start losing a lot of games. So you can’t be afraid to lose a game.

“It hurts to say it, it hurts to hear it, and there will come a time when everybody in Seattle wants to just throw their remote controls or throw the laptop that you’re watching the game on after a game is over, but you have to realize that sometimes, Brash cannot pitch every game and Topa can’t pitch every game.”

MLB Network’s Jon Morosi joins Wyman and Bob weekly on Seattle Sports. Listen to this week’s segment in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post, and click here to subscribe to every Wyman and Bob conversation with Morosi.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Video: Bob’s Breakdown – Are surging Mariners’ sights set on AL West title?
Dipoto: Where the Mariners’ pitching depth, rotation plan stands
Red-hot Julio Rodríguez made a subtle adjustment at the plate
Coach Manny Acta: Who leads Mariners behind the scenes?
ESPN’s Jeff Passan: Which player should the Seattle Mariners extend next?

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