Playoff Race: Where the Mariners stand with 3 weeks to go

Sep 11, 2023, 12:56 PM | Updated: 5:47 pm

Seattle Mariners Teoscar Hernández...

Teoscar Hernández celebrates with Seattle Mariners teammates on Sept. 9, 2023. (Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

(Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners are finally home, and you better believe they’re hoping their return to T-Mobile Park will be more kind than the 10-game road trip they just finished.

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The M’s enter play Monday with a 79-64 record, and they took a hit in the standings as they could only muster a single win in each of the three series on their road trip to go 3-7 along the way.

How much of a hit? Let’s take a close look at where Seattle stands in the American League playoff race with 22 games and just under three weeks left in the regular season.

• The division race

The Mariners had their time in first place of the AL West, but after struggling in New York, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay, they’re once again trailing in the division. Only this time, they’re not chasing the Texas Rangers. No, the defending World Series champion Houston Astros are back in the driver’s seat.

At 82-62 entering Monday, Houston is up 2 1/2 games on the M’s and three on the Rangers (78-64). The Astros have reeled off five wins in their last six games, and they’re going to be mighty tough to catch now. The reason? Of their next 12 games, nine are against the two worst teams in baseball: the Oakland Athletics (44-99) and Kansas City Royals (44-100). Yeah, you can say it. Yikes.

Keep in mind one silver lining: the Mariners have clinched the season series against Houston, so they only need to tie the Astros at the end of the season to win the AL West whereas Houston needs to finish at least one game ahead of Seattle to take the title.

• The wild card

The good news is that the Mariners are in position for a playoff spot entering the week. The bad news is they don’t have a lot of breathing room.

Current MLB Standings: Division | Wild Card

Seattle currently sits in the third and final wild card spot, just a half-game ahead of Texas, which is the first team on the outside looking in.

The Mariners could easily move up, though. The Toronto Blue Jays (80-63) are just a game up on Seattle for the second wild card. Forget about the first wild card, though. Tampa Bay (88-56) is up 8 1/2 games after taking three of four from the M’s over the weekend.

Much like last week when the Rangers and Astros played each other, the start of this week presents a big opportunity for Seattle. Texas will be in Canada to face the Jays for four games starting Monday, so as long as the Mariners win on those days, they’ll gain important ground on somebody.

Things won’t get much easier for Texas after that. The Rangers will play three games this weekend at Cleveland (68-76), who aren’t completely out of it in the AL Central yet, then have three at home against Boston. Texas also hasn’t looked great for a while now, having gone through a 4-16 stretch before taking two from Oakland over the weekend.

As for the Blue Jays, they’re worth worrying about. They’ve won six of their last seven (and eight of their last 10), though their upcoming schedule could be tough with the Texas series followed by the Red Sox, then two series each with the Yankees (71-72) and Rays to close out the regular season.

• What’s next for the Seattle Mariners

Seattle opens the week with three games against the Los Angeles Angels (67-77), who aren’t in good shape. They’re without Mike Trout again and Shohei Ohtani hasn’t played in over a week, though he could return as a designated hitter for the series with the M’s. The Angels also let a number of notable names go on waivers earlier this month when it became clear they were out of the playoff race. Before taking three of four in Cleveland over the weekend, they had lost 13 of 16. On the year, the Mariners are 6-4 against Los Angeles.

The following series will be as tough as they come for Seattle. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who at 87-55 are running away in the National League West, come to T-Mobile Park for three games beginning Friday. Dodgers superstar outfielder Mookie Betts was the only player perhaps hotter than the Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez in August, though he has cooled down down in September.

Next week, the M’s will head out on the road one last time for the regular season, first with three games in Oakland that could be very helpful so long as Seattle takes care of business. But that’s when the rubber hits the road, as the final 10 games will be three at Texas, then a return home for three against the Astros and four more vs. the Rangers.

Catch radio coverage of every Mariners game on Seattle Sports 710 AM and the Seattle Sports app beginning at least an hour before first pitch with the pregame show. Click here for details on how to listen.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Seattle Mariners’ Jarred Kelenic returns from IL, Marlowe optioned
Drayer: George Kirby shows ‘better understanding’ after critical comments
Where Passan thinks Mariners stand in Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes
Morosi: Why is AL playoff picture ‘great news’ for Seattle Mariners?

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Playoff Race: Where the Mariners stand with 3 weeks to go