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Passan: Why Mariners’ nine-game AL West lead is ‘kind of wild’

Jun 18, 2024, 10:35 AM | Updated: 11:49 am

Seattle Mariners Mitch Haniger walkoff White Sox 2024...

Mitch Haniger of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his walkoff single against the White Sox on June 12. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners are sitting in a prime position right now.

3 bold predictions for AL West-leading Mariners: Trades, All-Stars and more

Fresh off their sweep of the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers this past weekend, the Mariners are 43-31 and hold a commanding nine-game advantage atop the American League West over Texas and the Houston Astros. It’s the largest division lead in the majors and Seattle’s largest AL West lead since its record-setting 116-win season in 2001, which was the last time the franchise won a division crown.

As ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan pointed out Tuesday during his weekly appearance on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, the Mariners are in that position despite having just a plus-19 run differential. For context, each of MLB’s other five division leaders have a run differential of at least plus-60 – including three teams with run differentials above plus-100.

“The notion at this point that the Seattle Mariners have the largest divisional lead in baseball is kind of wild to think about when you look at their run differential,” Passan said. “They’re only plus-19 this year. So what that tells me is they’re clearly doing a good job in the situations where they need to. You don’t have a plus-19 differential and a plus-12 win-loss record if you’re not hitting in clutch moments and if you’re not locking things down on the pitching end if you need to.”

It’s not quite the chaos ball level of 2021 – when the Mariners won 90 games despite owning a minus-51 run differential – but Seattle is once again excelling in tight ballgames. The Mariners are 17-7 in one-run games and 5-2 in extra innings, and that doesn’t even include Cal Raleigh’s walkoff grand slam last Monday. In a span of six games last week, Seattle had five wins that were either by one run, in extra innings or on a walkoff.

The Mariners’ elite pitching and late-game dramatics have helped mask a lineup that’s averaged just 3.9 runs per game, which ranks 25th in the majors.

“It’s wild to think that as inconsistent as they’ve been with their bats that they’ve got a lead as substantial as that,” Passan said. “But they have finally started taking advantage of the weakness throughout the rest of the American League West.”

Seattle has dominated the AL West, going 17-5 against division opponents this season. That includes a 5-1 record against the Rangers and a 5-2 mark against the Astros.

“This has been a very impressive run by them, but they can’t rest on their laurels, because I still think that the Rangers are a good team and I still think that the Astros have something in them – at least a small run perhaps,” Passan said. “But right now, the Mariners, they look pretty darn good.”

Listen to the full conversation with Jeff Passan on Brock and Salk at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story.

More on the Seattle Mariners

• Mariners DFA catcher Zavala in move that has interesting ramifications
• What’s behind Mariners’ drastic home success, road struggles?
• What stat says the most about Mariners’ incredible starting rotation?
• ESPN’s Schoenfield on where Mariners sit: ‘The momentum is there’
• Seattle Mariners Insider: Quick hits after AL West leaders’ 6-1 homestand

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