Mariners Playoff Scenarios: What must happen with 2 games left

Sep 29, 2023, 8:48 AM | Updated: Sep 30, 2023, 8:21 pm

Seattle Mariners playoffs...

Members of the Seattle Mariners celebrate a win against the Texas Rangers on Sept. 29, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

With two games to go, the playoffs are very much in play for the Seattle Mariners after Friday’s 8-0 win over the Texas Rangers.

J.P. Crawford’s grand slam leads Seattle Mariners to 8-0 win over Rangers

In fact, there are multiple paths to the postseason still for Seattle. There are also multiple paths to missing the playoffs.

Guess what? It’s complicated. The Mariners could win out and miss the playoffs. They could go 1-1 and make it. And did you know they can still win the American League West? Crazy, huh?

Well, it is crazy. And complicated. So here’s my best shot at trying to make a complex situation understandable for curious Mariners and MLB fans.

First, the standings.

(Note: This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30 after the Blue Jays lost to the Rays)

The standings with 2 days left

• AL West

Texas: 89-71, +1 on Houston (2 games at Seattle)
Houston: 88-72, -2 on Texas (2 games at Arizona)
Seattle: 87-73, -2 on Texas (2 games at home against Texas)

• AL Wild Card

Tampa Bay: 98-73, clinched top wild card seed (1 game at Toronto)
Toronto: 89-72, +1.5 on Seattle (1 game at home against Tampa Bay)
Houston: 88-72, +1 on Seattle (2 games at Arizona)
Seattle: 87-73, -1 on Houston (2 games at home against Texas)

Seattle Mariners tiebreakers

You probably know by now, but when it comes to head-to-head tiebreakers, the Mariners have them over Houston and Toronto. They do not, however, own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Texas, even if the Mariners get a series win or even a four-game sweep to wrap up the season.

Here’s a detailed MLB breakdown of all the notable head-to-head tiebreakers, and a breakdown of the three- and four-way tiebreakers.

Can the Seattle Mariners win the AL West?

Yes. And this one isn’t as complicated as people may think.

The way this happens is if the Mariners win out and the Astros go 1-1 over their final two games. This would put the Mariners, Astros and Rangers all at 89 wins.

The reason the Mariners get the tiebreaker in this specific three-way scenario is if they win out against Texas, they’d have a better combined record against Houston and Texas than the Astros would versus Seattle and Texas and what the Rangers would have against Seattle and Houston.

As for who’s out of the playoffs in this scenario, that depends on what the Blue Jays do as they enter the last game of the season with 89 wins.

If the Blue Jays lose Sunday and the three AL West teams also have 89 wins, then the Blue Jays are out.

If the Blue Jays win Sunday and the three AL West teams tie at 89 wins, then the Rangers are out.

And whether it’s the Mariners, Astros or Rangers who win the AL West, that team will have a first-round playoff bye as the No. 2 seed in the American League. No matter who wins the division, they will be assured a better record than the Minnesota Twins, who won the AL Central and will host the No. 3 wild card team.

So even as bleak as this month has looked and how poor most of the last week has gone, the Mariners still have a chance at not just a playoff berth, but a playoff bye. 

Crazy, huh?

Can they be eliminated before the final day?

Another simple answer: Yes, the Mariners can be eliminated on Saturday.

If the Mariners lose and the Astros win, that puts the Mariners two games back with one game left. You do the math. And any Mariners loss clinches a playoff spot for Toronto.

And on a similar note, the Mariners have to win at least one more game to stay alive. If the M’s don’t win any more games, then even if Toronto and Houston lose out, Seattle would finish one back of the Astros.

Can the Seattle Mariners clinch on Saturday?

No. Because the Astros won on Friday, that is mathematically impossible.

If the Mariners are going to make the playoffs, they will only be able to clinch on Sunday, the season’s final day.

How M’s make the Wild Card at 1-1

If the Mariners win just one game, the only way they make the playoffs is if the Astros lose both their final two games.

This would put both teams at 88 wins, and the Mariners own the head-to-head tiebreaker. The M’s would then be the third wild card team and go to Minnesota for the Wild Card Round. If the M’s go 1-1, the Blue Jays and Rangers are irrelevant because each are assured more wins than Seattle. Houston would miss the playoffs.

If the Mariners go 1-1 and the Astros win at least one game, the Mariners miss the playoffs.

How M’s make Wild Card at 2-0

First, just to reiterate: If the Mariners go 2-0 and the Astros go 1-1, Seattle wins the AL West, as outlined earlier.

There are three paths to a wild card berth, though, if Seattle goes 2-0.

• If the Mariners win out while the Astros go 0-2 and the Blue Jays win on Sunday, the Rangers would win the division and Seattle and Toronto would make it as the two wild card teams. This would mean Toronto is the second wild card and will face Tampa Bay while Seattle gets the third spot and goes to Minnesota while the Astros miss the playoffs.

• If the Mariners win out and both the Astros go 0-2 and the Blue Jays lose on Sunday, the Mariners would be the No. 2 wild card team and go to Tampa Bay. The Rangers would win the AL West and the Blue Jays would be the No. 3 wild card team. Houston would miss the postseason.

• If the Mariners and Astros both finish 2-0, Seattle would need the Blue Jays to lose on Sunday. If that happens, the Astros win the AL West, the Rangers would be the second wild card team and the Mariners would be the third wild card team while the Blue Jays miss the playoffs.

If the Mariners and Astros win out and the Blue Jays win Sunday, the M’s would, after all that, miss the playoffs.

Wait, the Mariners can win out and miss the playoffs?

Yeah, that would stink, huh? And it’s very much in play.

If the Mariners and Astros go 2-0 and the Blue Jays win on Sunday, the Mariners would miss the playoffs.

If that happens, the Astros would have 90 wins and win the AL West while the Rangers and Mariners have 89. The Blue Jays would have 90 wins, edging out the Rangers and Mariners for the second wild card spot. Since the Rangers own the tiebreaker over the Mariners, Texas would have the third wild card spot while Seattle would miss the postseason.

The tiebreakers are the only lifelines Seattle has. With two games to go, the M’s need help, regardless of if they win out.

Do Arizona and Tampa have anything to play for?

Because the Mariners need help, something I’ve seen asked a lot is whether Arizona and Tampa Bay have anything to play for against Houston and Toronto, respectively.

For the Rays against the Jays, the answer is no. No matter how that series finishes on Sunday (Toronto won on Friday and lost on Saturday), Tampa Bay is locked in as the No. 1 wild card team. The only thing that series dictates is whether Toronto makes the playoffs, and the Jays need either one win OR one Mariners loss to clinch a spot.

As for the Diamondbacks, despite what some believe, they still have yet to clinch a playoff spot.

Arizona enters Saturday a half game up on Miami for the second wild card spot and two games up on Chicago and Cincinnati. What you should know is the Diamondbacks do not own tiebreakers over both Miami and Cincy, hence why they haven’t clinched.

The Diamondbacks can clinch a berth on Saturday with either a win or Reds loss. The Reds play the Cardinals and that game starts only an hour before the Diamondbacks host the Astros, so Arizona won’t know that result until its game is well under way.  

Saturday schedule for the 4 remaining AL contenders

• Rays beat Blue Jays 7-5 in extras
• Rangers at Mariners, 4:15 p.m. Pacific
• Astros at Diamondbacks, 5:10 p.m. Pacific

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