The Mariners are 54-31. They have the fourth-best record in baseball. Perhaps, what is most surprising is the fact they trail the defending champion Astros by just one half of a game.
Through 85 games this season, 37 of the Mariners contests have decided by one-run: they have won 26 of them.
Is this one-run magic truly sustainable? As the season treks along, doubtful fans around the league continue to ask this question, and Seattle continues to take close games. Despite a top-4 record in the majors, they find themselves in the second wild-card spot in the American League with a comfortable 8 game lead above the Oakland Athletics.
Of course, we cannot count the Mariners in for the postseason just yet – 77 games remain. Mariners fans still relive the nightmare of the 20-game win streak that Oakland rode into the postseason that kept a Seattle squad out of the playoffs in 2002. With a considerable amount of baseball left to play, anything can happen.
However, the Mariners cannot be overlooked. They are simply a force to be reckoned with, and Seattle would have to implode to lose their ground in the Wild Card race.
Before the season started, nobody thought Seattle would be trailing the reigning champion Houston Astros by just half of one game – in July.
But does Seattle have a legitimate shot at dethroning the World Series champions? While the M’s carry the longest current postseason drought in North American professional sports, many fans would rejoice with a wild card appearance. Others are greedy. The Houston Astros are not invincible, and Seattle has the ability to shock the baseball world.
If the Mariners want any chance of competing with Houston for an AL West pennant, they must make a splash in the trade market before the deadline. The Astros did just that last season, acquiring superstar pitcher Justin Verlander to their already-stacked starting rotation. They went on to win the Fall Classic.
Regardless of the player or position, Jerry Dipoto and the Mariners will be a buying organization at the deadline. And the acquisition of another star may help get the team past Houston. Robinson Cano will also return to the squad in mid-August and help Seattle on both sides of the field with his bat and his glove.
The Mariners will also need to make the most of their schedule and beat the teams they should beat. They have done this in recent memory, sweeping the two worst teams in baseball – Baltimore and Kansas City.
Seattle will also need to take advantage of their series with Houston. They are 2-4 against the Astros so far this year but will have to improve this record if they want a chance at a straight shot to the ALDS. They face the reigning champions 13 more times throughout the rest of the season.
If the Mariners take care of the teams they can handle and overachieve against playoff-caliber ball clubs, Seattle could shock the baseball world and force Houston into a one-game playoff with either Boston or New York. If not, they will most like travel to either Fenway or the Bronx to face Boston’s Chris Sale or New York’s Luis Severino.
However, if wild-card games have shown us anything, it is that anything can happen. On the road against a top-tier organization, the Mariners would have a tough test, regardless of their opponent. But with Paxton on the mound, our best guys on the field, and maybe a new face on the team after the trade deadline, I like our chances. Or maybe I’m just a biased fan.
To make things simple, Seattle wants to avoid the wild card speculation and earn a five-game series. Houston stands in their way. Let the second-half battle begin.