The Mariners trail the second Wild Card by half a game and it is September. Although catching the Los Angeles Angels for the top spot in the AL West would require a breakdown of all breakdowns, the Mariners also sit right behind the Oakland Athletics for the first AL Wild Card spot. ESPN currently has our playoff odds at 57.2 percent.
Our Mariners, when many of us were viewing a .500 season as a year in the right direction, have gone from playing meaningful baseball in August to participating in a full blown playoff race in September. Seattle has 18 games left to regain the lead or to let it all fall apart. Most of the teams around them in the hunt are sitting more or less around that number of remaining games as well.
Taking a quick look at all the teams, even going as far down as those that are five games back, the Detroit Tigers appear to have the easiest route into the playoffs (note - team records don't include Tuesday's results).
|team||remaining opponents' combined percentage||home/road|
|Kansas City||.490 (280-291)||9/10|
|NY Yankees||.505 (290-284)||11/10|
For easy reference, here is each team's remaining schedule, including today's games.
|Oakland||2 @ CHW, 3 @ SEA, 3 vs. TEX, 3 vs. PHI, 3 vs. LAA, 4 @ TEX|
|Seattle||1 vs. HOU, 3 vs. OAK, 4 @ LAA, 3 @ HOU, 4 @ TOR, 3 vs. LAA|
|Detroit||1 vs. KC, 3 vs. CLE, 3 @ MIN, 3 @ KC, 3 vs. CHW, 4 vs. MIN|
|Kansas City||1 @ DET, 4 vs. BOS, 3 vs. CHW, 3 vs. DET, 3 @ CLE, 4 @ CHW|
|Cleveland||2 vs. MIN, 3 @ DET, 4 @ HOU, 3 @ MIN, 3 vs. KC, 3 vs. TB|
|NY Yankees||2 vs. TB, 4 @ BAL, 3 @ TB, 4 vs. TOR, 4 vs. BAL, 3 @ BOS|
|Toronto||1 vs. CHC, 3 vs. TB, 3 @ BAL, 4 @ NYY, 4 vs. SEA, 3 vs. BAL|
Even though the A's have watched their AL West vice grip loosen, they have one of the better opportunities to stay afloat considering the opposition. Oakland has seven games left against the Rangers and three against Philadelphia. They also draw the Mariners in Seattle for three games and head out to Los Angeles for three games against the Angels. Assuming the Athletics can take care of business against the bottom feeding teams in the league, they have the easiest path into the October.
The Tigers, now leading the Mariners by half a game (and tied with Kansas City for the division lead), have a great path at aiming for a playoff spot. The Tigers biggest obstacle on the road seems like it is three games against the Royals, but Detroit has been pushing Kansas City all over the field this year, beating the Royals in 10 out of 14 tries. The one saving grace might be that the Tigers have played .500 ball this season against the White Sox, Twins and the Indians -- 13 of their final 18 games.
If it isn't the Tigers the Mariners are trying to hold off, it will be the Royals. The Royals close out with seven straight games on the road, but it shouldn't faze them too much as Kansas City has been one of the better road teams in the MLB. The four home games against Boston might be interesting as they haven't beaten the Red Sox in three tries, a rather meaninglessly small sample size.
Right now, it seems fair to start to count the Yankees and the Blue Jays out of the hunt. Making up a gap of five games against this many teams is hard enough. It is even harder considering that Toronto and New York have a four-game series against each other and both teams have two series remaining against the Baltimore Orioles. The sun hasn't mathematically set in the northeast, but realistically it is time to focus on next year.
That brings us to our delightful, jockeying for playoff position Seattle Mariners. Obviously, it goes without saying that the Mariners have the most difficult schedule out of all of the wild card chasing teams. We have 11 straight road games, opening the trip with four games against the Angels. Then it is off to Houston and Toronto before closing out the season at home against the Angels, the best team in baseball.
The Mariners didn't get any scheduling favors from MLB, and with these final few weeks of the season the team has to be prepared for the long haul. The last day off is on Thursday, Sept. 11. After that, it is baseball every day for the rest of the season (a rather glorious thing). The teams the Mariners drew at the end of the year, although good teams, are also teams we've played rather well against. We have a combined 28-18 record against the Astros, Angels, Athletics and Blue Jays this year. September won't be easy, but as the old saying goes, go Mariners.