To paraphrase Han Solo, “Never tell me the odds - unless they show a 99.9% likelihood of the Seattle Mariners making the playoffs.”
Tonight, the Mariners embark on a 10 game homestand to close out the regular season, and there is a 99.9% chance that one of those games will end with the first playoff clinching celebration the T-Mobile Park/Safeco Field clubhouse has seen in more than two decades (And yes, said celebration could come after a loss - we’ll get to that in a bit.).
The superstitious, many-years-burned Mariners fan sees that .1% loom large, but this season is different from other late Septembers when the M’s were close but reliant on a whole lot of things to fall their way. This year, despite a disappointing month, they actually have enough of a cushion to not be wholly forced to live and die with the successes and failures of other teams. So in an effort to both waylay fears and erase some of the confusion surrounding all the hypotheticals, we’re going to power through the worries and explore all the many ways that would see Seattle end their playoff drought.
And a quick housekeeping note: We are not entertaining the White Sox in this hypothetical. Their biggest threat to the Mariners is that they have them beat in a tiebreaker, because they won the head-to-head series this season. But it’s too many additional names and numbers and not enough Tim Anderson and Luis Robert, so apologies and due respect and salt-throwing-over-the-shoulder to the White Sox but no. It’s also true that the Rays could fall past the Mariners, the Blue Jays could potentially fall too but that’s especially unlikely, so, ergo, ipso facto, alakazam, the focus rests on the Orioles.
First and foremost, the earliest the Mariners can clinch is Thursday. Their magic number is six, which means that their pathway to the postseason can be any amalgamation of six Mariners wins and/or Orioles losses. So the equation looks like this:
O = Orioles losses, M = Mariners wins
O + M ≥ 6
The final 10 games look a little something like this:
Mariners play three vs Texas, three vs Oakland, four vs Detroit. All three of these opponents have been eliminated from the playoffs.
Orioles play three vs Boston, three vs Yankees (at New York), three vs Toronto. Boston was eliminated last night, the Yankees have clinched a playoff birth but not officially the division, Toronto has a 2.5 game lead over Tampa in the Wild Card.
In the interest of giving myself and others a point of reference, and providing some measure of guidance on if/when you might want to be in attendance for a game, I’ve laid out all the clinching scenarios below.
To clinch on Thursday:
- Mariners sweep Texas, Baltimore loses three vs Red Sox
To clinch on Friday:
- Four Mariners wins in four days, and two Baltimore losses in four days
- OR Three Mariners wins in four days, and three Baltimore losses in four days
- OR two Mariners wins in four days, and four Baltimore losses in four days
To clinch on Saturday:
- Five Mariners wins in five days, and one Baltimore loss in five days
- OR four Mariners wins in five days, and two Baltimore losses in five days
- OR three Mariners wins in five days, and three Baltimore losses in five days
- OR two Mariners wins in five days, and four Baltimore losses in five days
- OR one Mariners win in five days, and five Baltimore losses in five days
To clinch on Sunday:
*This is the first day when the Mariners would be able to clinch of their own accord, birds be damned*
- Six Mariners wins in six days, to hell with whatever Baltimore has done
- OR five Mariners wins in six days, one Baltimore loss in six days
- OR four Mariners wins in six days, two Baltimore losses in six days
- OR three Mariners wins in six days, three Baltimore losses in six days
- OR two Mariners wins in six days, four Baltimore losses in six days
- OR one Mariners win in six days, five Baltimore losses in six days
- OR everybody loses!
To clinch on Monday:
In order for this to happen, the Mariners will have lost one game, and Baltimore will have not lost any.
Beyond Monday, however many games fewer than six that the Mariners will have won, Baltimore will have needed to lose in equal measure. Does that sentence make your head spin? Mine too. Basically, after Monday the equation from above still remains true, and if we dive any further in I may lose not just the plot but my own mind.
But you know when else I’m going to lose my mind?
If (when) the Mariners clinch a playoff spot.