The Rays lost today, and the Blue Jays won. In order to get the first Wild Card and earn the right to play at home, the Mariners would have had to both sweep the Tigers in four games, including a double-header—always a tricky proposition—and hope the Blue Jays drop their two final games to the Orioles. Unlikely, but technically possible.
The Mariners did not do that, dropping the first game of the series against the lowly Tigers. It’s a bummer because even if they had lost a game later in the series, the Mariners—if they’d opened up this series looking like they were gunning for the sweep—could have pushed Toronto into the position of having to use one of their frontline starters to secure home field advantage as their rotation was set to turn over on Wednesday.
Instead, the Mariners lost, meaning they’ll now be battling it out with Tampa Bay for either the second or third Wild Card spot. The WC2, despite being a higher seed, is seen as less desirable than WC3; not only does it mean going to Toronto to face a good team in the Blue Jays, but the road from there goes then to the Astros, aka Mariner kryptonite. But since that outcome also involves the Mariners having won a playoff series, there’s a percentage of satisfaction baked into that outcome anyway, as worrisome as it would be to face the bullies of the AL West.
Meanwhile, the opportunity to slide into the third Wild Card spot and go to Cleveland instead of Toronto took a hit today with the Rays losing to the Red Sox in the first game of their series. Tampa Bay owns the tiebreaker over the Mariners, so in order to move ahead (or behind, depending on your feelings on WC2 vs WC3), Tampa Bay has to win their final two games, and the Mariners can’t do any better than 1-3 in this series against Detroit.
Rays lose, but look, they don't really care about winning anymore. They threw Herget all game to save arms.— Evan Closky (@ECloskyWTSP) October 4, 2022
If Tampa Bay wins out, Mariners need to win 2 of 4 against DET to head to Toronto. One more loss to Boston and Seattle needs just one win.
The Rays are famous for playing smart but not necessarily soulful baseball, so it’s not hard to imagine there’s a degree of strategy in opting to avoid another familiar AL East opponent. It’s unlikely the Mariners can tank these final games against the Tigers as hard as the Rays can against Boston, so why not just win, win win win win, [redacted] everything else, win win win win, and head into the post-season with a smile.