Morosi: AL playoff picture is ‘great news’ for the Mariners

Sep 8, 2023, 12:32 PM

Seattle Mariners...

J.P. Crawford of the Seattle Mariners on Sept. 7, 2023. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

If the regular season were to end today, the Seattle Mariners would be playoff-bound for the second year in a row.

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And like last year, they’d be entering the playoffs as the second American League wild card team and as the No. 5 seed in the AL playoff bracket.

Entering Friday, the Seattle Mariners are 79-61. That has them a half game back of the Houston Astros in the AL West race, 5.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays – their current opponent – for the top AL wild card spot, two games above the Toronto Blue Jays, who are the third AL wild card team, and 2.5 up on the Texas Rangers, who are on the outside looking in.

So what should we know about the American League playoff picture? And how does all that impact the Mariners?

MLB Network insider Jon Morosi broke it down with Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob on Thursday.

The Rangers are ‘fading’

Let’s start with Texas, which finds itself out of a playoff spot for the first time since early April.

“They are fading. Now they have time to reverse it, but they’re fading from my perspective when you consider how they’re performing,” Morosi said.

The Rangers were on fire to start the year, but went under .500 in July and lost 10 of their final 13 games in August.

Texas is 1-5 in September and got swept by the Astros, getting outscored 39-10 in three games.

“This Texas team still has the talent to win the division, but just the form that they’ve had of late is concerning and I’m just not sure how exactly they find a way out of this funk,” Morosi said.

Meanwhile, the Astros are surging

The Rangers’ struggles have coincided not just with the Mariners’ surge, but the Astros piling up wins, too.

As noted, the Astros just manhandle the Rangers this week and they’re back atop the AL West entering a weekend series with San Diego.

“(They have) really shown everyone that they’re still the class of this division until someone proves otherwise,” Morosi said. “Obviously they’re still tied with the Mariners in the last column, so it still is a winnable division for the Mariners. But I think the last couple of weeks have underscored just how great the Astros are, especially at this time of year.”

The Twins are better than you think

Morosi was asked about playoff seeding and whether the Mariners would be better off getting the third and final wild card spot so they go play the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins rather than Tampa Bay or another wild card team. Morosi said to pump the brakes on wanting to play Minnesota.

“I would not be doing backflips down the street if I said, ‘I get to play the Twins. I’m through to the second round, no questions asked … I look at the Twins as being a more formidable opponent than the record would suggest,” he said.

The AL Central is the worst division in baseball and the Twins are the only team there over .500. It’s also likely that Minnesota will have a worse record than the other five American League playoff teams.

Morosi still thinks we shouldn’t discredit the Twins in the playoffs.

“The Twins I think are better than a lot of people realize,” he said.

The Rays are beat up, but still very good

Tampa Bay, which lost to Seattle 1-0 on Thursday, is missing a number of key players. But the Rays still find themselves holding the first American League wild card spot and they’re four games back of Baltimore in the AL East.

The Rays are without ace Shane McClanahan and fellow starting pitchers Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs. Star shortstop Wander Franco is also not playing as he’s under investigation for relationships with multiple minors. Outfielder Manuel Margot is also in the injured list.

In terms of pitching, Tyler Glasnow has been a force for Tampa Bay of late, posting a 2.33 ERA in nine starts since the All-Star Break.

“To think about how well Glasnow has pitched (of late). The Rays don’t have McClanahan, but they still have a lot of depth and they’ve been able to withstand the absence of Franco pretty well in recent weeks,” Morosi said. “So there’s still a really good baseball team.”

How good are the Orioles?

The Orioles were the first team on the outside of the playoffs last year in the wild card race, and they’ve taken a massive step forward in 2023 as they have the best record in the American League and will likely be the AL’s No. 1 playoff seed.

“I think that they do have both a really great base of young talent and a really strong manager in Brandon Hyde,” Morosi said.

Baltimore’s bullpen has also been a strength this season, but they’re without star closer Felix Bautista and it’s unclear when he could return. Morosi called that a “big concern” for the Orioles.

Morosi is a big fan of the O’s lineup, which is anchored by star catcher Adley Rutschman, but their starting rotation does leave quite a bit to be desired.

“They brought in Jack Flaherty to pitch out of the rotation — he has not really been as dominant as you would expect. The rotation is, in terms of the name value, maybe not one of the most recognized staffs in the game. Kyle Bradish is probably their their No. 1, Grayson Rodriguez has been better since coming back in the second half, Cole Irvin has been pretty good as well, there’s still obviously the hope of John Means (returning from injury and) being impactful for them,” Morosi said.

If the Orioles are going to make a postseason run, Morosi thinks it will be based on home runs and the bullpen shortening games.

“I think if they hit enough home runs and have their bullpen solid and lined up, they can beat anybody,” Morosi said.

What this all means for the Seattle Mariners

“I would also say this: In all the years that I’ve covered the American League, I’m not sure that I’ve seen a more wide-open American League playoff picture than the one we’ve got right now,” Morosi said. “And that’s great news for the Mariners.”

Morosi thinks that no matter who the Mariners match up with in the playoffs, it will be a “tough series,” but one that is “winnable.”

“I think Seattle feels as though in the right circumstance, they can beat anybody. And they should feel that way because that was even true last year, with how competitively they played against the Astros,” he said.

“That’s why, if you look at any of the algorithms, (the Mariners) grade out at like a 10% chance to win the World Series, which is pretty darn high. And it’s that high for a reason, which is that the American League is wide open. It really is,” Morosi said. “And I think we could see some big surprises in the month of October.”

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

More on the Seattle Mariners

Dipoto talks Mariners’ ‘pooped’ bullpen, lessons Woo is learning
• Why Passan ‘will bet on Kelenic’ over Marlowe and Canzone for Mariners
• Drayer’s Mariners Notebook: Tough September, Muñoz and more
• Mariners lucked out, but they can’t miss on huge opportunity now
• Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez, Andrés Muñoz win AL awards for August
• Mariners Check-In: How Seattle’s trade deadline looks a month later
• What should Mariners do with Teoscar Hernández? Morosi weighs in

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