It's simple now.
The Mariners are two games back of Oakland. There are two games left to play, so the only way they get to play bonus baseball is if they win out and Oakland faceplants. A fourth grader could work out the odds: call every game a coin flip, and there's only one success case, so one half to the fourth is one sixteenth.
Maybe you give the M's a bit of a bump because their next two games are Paxton and Felix against mediocre C.J. Wilson and terrible Cory Rasmus. At home, no less, against a team with nothing left to play for. You have to like their odds of winning those. But then Oakland gets to play Texas, and they're throwing Jeff Samardzija and Sonny Gray, and the Rangers' game 162 starter has a 5.76 career FIP in Arlington. So the real chances of success are probably less like one sixteenth and more like one twentieth.
One twentieth is unlikely, but it isn't that unlikely. If you like, the Mariners are playing D&D, and they need a critical hit to survive the encounter. Alternately, the Mariners are a 40-year-old woman, and they really want their next kid to be born in February. Lots of kids born in February grow up to roll critical hits in D&D. I'm one of them! It's not impossible, is what I'm saying.
Of course, it would be a lot less impossible if Fernando Rodney hadn't walked in the winning run in the Night Court game. Funny how that loss, which felt so crushing at the time, turned out to be exactly as crushing as it felt. If the Mariners had won that night, they'd be tied with Oakland right now, and the odds of advancement would be less like 1/20 and more like 1/2. It's silly to pin the whole season on one game - after all, a win against Sean Barber would've swung the standings just as much - but, man. That's the kind of loss you remember. That's the kind of loss with less than one-in-twenty odds.
Honestly, I'm not sure how to feel about the Mariners right now. The rational part of me has pretty much accepted that the season's over: even if the Mariners manage to make game 163, it'll be Taijuan Walker vs. Jon Lester, and then if they win that it's off to Kansas City to face James Shields. Right now the Mariners' probable starter for the Wild Card game is Tom Wilhelmsen. It's, y'know, it's really just not gonna happen. I know that. My brain is already thinking about offseason articles.
But for whatever god damn reason, it's not as simple as that. The knowledge that the Mariners are almost certainly not going to win the World Series - or even the Wild Card game - hasn't stopped me from really, really wanting the Mariners to win the World Series. Or even the Wild Card game. C'mon, Mariners, just - reward me just this once. Just win.
One of the many things that writing for Lookout Landing has made clear to me is that I am not a rational actor. I can't explain why I care about these Mariners so much. But I do, and even if they're basically eliminated, they're not eliminated, and the part of me that cares about baseball - the stupid part of me - isn't going to stop watching, and cheering, and discussing, until they are. If you're still reading this rambling article written by a college sophomore on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I imagine you're in a similar boat.
The Mariners aren't done yet. Apparently, that's good enough for us.