Why ESPN’s Olney thinks Mariners are favorites to win AL West

Aug 30, 2023, 4:39 PM | Updated: 5:55 pm

Seattle Mariners AL West...

Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners celebrates with Josh Rojas on Aug. 27. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

It’s going to be a wild ride in the American League West over the final month of the season as the Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros and Texas Rangers all entered Wednesday tied for the division lead.

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For the Mariners, their rise in the standings has been extreme, as they’ve been red-hot since the start of July and nearly unbeatable in August. The Astros have played very good baseball over the last two months, as well.

The Rangers, however, have struggled mightily in recent weeks, allowing Seattle and Houston to gain ground after Texas has dominated the division lead for nearly all of the 2023 season.

So who the heck is going to win the AL West and almost certainly get a first-round playoff bye as a result?

One MLB insider thinks it will be the Mariners.

“I would pick the Mariners among the three teams,” ESPN’s Buster Olney told Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Wednesday.

“I think the Rangers – while they’ve had a tremendous season, a surprisingly good offense, I think (manager) Bruce Bochy has made a difference – they’ve just have had so many pitching injury issues and I don’t know if they’re going to be able to overcome them,” Olney added. “They’ve already lost Jacob deGrom (for the season), Nathan Eovaldi, it’s uncertain when he’s going to come back or if he’s going to come back. So they may be in trouble. The obvious team for me for the Mariners to overcome would be the Astros.”

The Astros, the defending World Series champions, have made it to the ALCS every year since 2017 while making it to four World Series, winning two. They’ve largely had the Mariners’ number in recent years, and they knocked Seattle out of the playoffs last year with a three-game sweep in the ALDS.

“There’s a difference with a team that’s had a lot of success,” Olney said. “I was around the Astros a few weeks ago – we had them on (ESPN’s) Sunday Night Baseball – and it’s amazing. Those guys are like, ‘Yeah, we’ll figure it out. Yeah, we’ll find a way to win.’ They’ve got Yordan Álvarez back in the lineup and he hit a home run at Fenway last night. They’ve got Michael Brantley back in the lineup. My question (about the Astros) is going to be about their pitching and with their bullpen in particular and how that’s going to hold up.”

Olney thinks we could be seeing a passing of the torch with the Mariners and Astros.

Related: How good is the Mariners’ pitching? It has the Astros worried

“The Mariners right now just playing with so much confidence. I had (Mariners president of baseball operations) Jerry Dipoto … (record) my podcast yesterday, and I mentioned to him that what we’re seeing with the Mariners and the Astros reminds me a lot of back in the day when the Pistons had to overcome the Celtics, and then Michael Jordan’s Bulls had to overcome the Pistons,” Olney said. “Have the Mariners figured out – that great weekend series in Houston (earlier this month where the Mariners swept the Astros) – have they figured out how to overcome the Houston Astros and finally conquer the team that they’ve been chasing all these years?”

Listen to the full discussion with Olney at this link or in the player near the top of this story. 

More on the Seattle Mariners

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