Drayer: What to know as Mariners enter final stretch in playoff chase

Sep 21, 2023, 4:13 PM

Seattle Mariners...

The Seattle Mariners celebrate their 3-2 win against the Los Angeles Angels on Sept. 13, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Here we are. The final 10 games. Games we have been pointing to since mid-season as what would likely be the deciding factors in the Seattle Mariners’ chase of a second straight postseason berth.

Dipoto: What’s critical for Seattle Mariners over remaining 10 games

The path to the final week and a half showdown not quite what I think anyone expected with the Mariners, Astros and Rangers all within a half game of each other. The fact that it is a three-way race with the Rangers the surprise entrant is perhaps the most stunning development.

150, 18, 12: The number of days the Rangers, Astros and Mariners have been in first place this season. None of that matters now as the season has come down to just 10 games. Bring it on, said Julio Rodríguez following the sweep of the A’s.

“I feel like everybody is waiting to get to the field,” he said. “Everybody is excited. Everybody is ready to compete. At the end of the day, we are going to lay everything on the line over there.”

Cal Raleigh, who was looking forward to the one last day of rest before the push, echoed Julio’s thoughts.

“It’s going to be fun. It’s what we play for, it’s what we wanted to do, it’s a great spot to be in. We’re excited,” Raleigh said. “It’s going to be challenging, it’s going to be fun and we’re looking forward to it.”

Scott Servais’ approach? Simple.

“The playoffs start for us Friday night and I am really excited about it as is our players as well.”

What’s going to happen these next ten days with these three teams is anybody’s guess. All three teams have scuffled in September with the Mariners going 8-11, Rangers 9-10, and the Astros 8-10. The teams are what they are at this point. The Texas teams will attack with the bats, the Mariners will look to shut them down with the arms.

“From Day 1 it’s been the pitching staff,” said Raleigh. “We need them to come out and do what they do. Get ahead, attack the zone, attack the hitters, throw their stuff in the zone and compete. The timely hitting is huge for us as well, but it all starts on the mound. Starting pitching, then hand it over to the bullpen. It’s going to be big these next few days.”

If the three-game series against the Rangers does indeed come down to the arms, it will be largely in the hands of the young ones with Bryce Miller vs Dane Dunning the matchup in Game 1, Logan Gilbert vs Jordan Montgomery in Game 2 and Bryan Woo vs Nathan Eovaldi in Game 3.

Those are just the starting matchups. On the Mariners Pregame Show Roundtable Wednesday morning, Gary Hill broke down how he thought these game would be decided.

“I think whichever bullpen pitches better will win the series,” he said. “I think both teams will operate as a playoff-type series. Especially when you look at the M’s. With Woo and Miller going, I think you are asking for five quality innings and let the bullpen finish it off.”

Hill believes we will see Scott Servais manage the bullpen like it is the postseason. He very well could go to any of or all Matt Brash, Justin Topa, or Andrés Muñoz three days in a row. The good news is they are rested after just light maintenance work in the A’s series.

More good news is Muñoz believes the hip issue that bothered him for two months is behind him with his added velocity his last five outings on all his pitches indicating if not the hip, something has been fixed. Despite the stumbles of the entire ‘pen in September, Muñoz’s confidence is high in both himself, and his bullpenmates.

“We have been here before,” he said on the pregame show. “We know what we have to do and we are going to give our best to give the best performance we can. It’s not pressure. We know that we are good. Obviously we have to do the right adjustments, but everybody has to make adjustments. I feel we are great and we are going to be really good these next few weeks.”

The Mariners cannot win on pitching alone. At last check, somebody has to score at least one run for the team to have a chance to win. On that front, while it was against young pitching the bats did seem to come alive in Oakland, it was good to see better approaches from Eugenio Suárez and Teoscar Hernández in particular.

This is it. Now 162 games boil down to 10 and not just for the three AL West teams. The Toronto Blue Jays, up one game in the second Wild Card spot, will be a part of the scramble as well, but from a distance.

When it all shakes out, one very good team will be left out of the dance. The Mariners would like to keep that decision in their own hands. A good series in Texas will get them one step closer to controlling their fate.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Mariners’ Dipoto: What Julio Rodríguez’s opposite-field homers suggest
Kurkjian: Castillo and Brash two key arms for Mariners in playoffs
• Kurkjian: Why Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez, J.P. Crawford will get MVP votes
• Drayer: Seattle Mariners find payoff in not trying to do too much
• Salk: Who do Mariners need to step up during intense final stretch?
• Mariners’ J.P. Crawford homers, celebrates by petting dog

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