Devil’s Advocate: Are the Mariners A Playoff Shoe-In Just Yet?

SEATTLE, WA - MAY 20: Mitch Haniger #17 of the Seattle Marinerslaps the bases after hitting a two run home run agianst the Detroit Tigers in the ninth inning to tie the game at Safeco Field on May 20, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - MAY 20: Mitch Haniger #17 of the Seattle Marinerslaps the bases after hitting a two run home run agianst the Detroit Tigers in the ninth inning to tie the game at Safeco Field on May 20, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

The short answer to this question is probably. But, since there are still 70 games to play in the regular season, a tragedy could strike Seattle yet again. Let’s dive in and see who could realistically continue the Mariners playoff drought.

With Houston 4 games ahead of Seattle in the American League West, the division is far from decided. The Mariners and Astros still face each other 13 more times, and these matches could more than likely decide who punches their ticket to the ALDS.

But, as of now, the Mariners sit in the second wild-card spot. The team closest to Seattle in the standings is Oakland, yet they are still six games behind. Rarely do teams have a six-game advantage over the next closest opponent in the wild-card race, let alone before the All-Star break. For example, six teams currently dwell within six games of the second wild-card Atlanta Braves in the National League.

So who can really take on the task of removing Seattle from the playoffs for yet another year? Let’s discuss.

The most probable team for this scenario are the Oakland Athletics. They are 51-41 and have won 17 of their last 22 games, but their biggest upside is their scrappy offense. Hitters such as Jed Lowrie have helped produce the offense, batting a solid .288 for the club. Starting pitchers such as Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas have been strong this season, and closer Blake Treinen earned his 23rd save in a 2-0 win over Houston on Monday night.

However, the A’s current run can only last so long. Their offense may continue to produce, but their pitching must stay red hot if they want any chance of surpassing Seattle and continuing their winning streak. To put Oakland’s 17-5 stretch into perspective, they have only gained 0.5 games on the Mariners in that time.

The Tampa Bay Rays are another team that could give Seattle a run for their money. Luckily for them, however, they no longer have to play the Mariners this season. Seattle swept the Rays at Safeco Field before taking 3 of 4 at Tropicana Field in early June.

(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) /

The Rays are 9.5 games behind Seattle in the wild-card race and are 47-44 on the season. To say that Tampa Bay is a playoff team this season is quite a stretch, but there have been flashes of brilliance throughout their just-over-.500 ball club.

Blake Snell has been the ace of the franchise, going 12-4 in 19 starts on the season with a 2.09 ERA. He is considered one of the biggest all-star snubs this season, and for good reason. He has the lowest ERA of any American League starter.

Tampa Bay’s entire rotation must go on an absolute tear if they want to somehow surpass Seattle for a playoff spot. They play in a division ridden with powerful offenses alongside Boston and New York, and climbing the standings will be near impossible if they drop important games to American League rivals. Their offense will also need to produce run support for their pitching with key hitters like Matt Duffy and All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos leading the way.

Although we hate to admit it, the Los Angeles Angels need to be on this list. Although they are 10 games behind Seattle in the standings, they may have one of the best chances of any team of taking over the second Wild Card spot.

Why the Angels? Mike Trout. Andrelton Simmons. Shohei Ohtani. Unlike the Rays and the A’s, the Angels have big-name players that have the ability to power their offense past opponents.

(Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images) /

However, their offense has yet to live up to the pre-season hype that deemed them a playoff team. Mike Trout is having another stellar season in his prime, but hitters like Albert Pujols and Ian Kinsler are far from exemplary. Pujols is batting .245 as a designated hitter, and second baseman Kinsler is hitting just .213 though he is a .273 career hitter.

The best takeaways from the Angels thus far are rookie third baseman David Fletcher, who’s proven himself capable of leading off the game offensively. The all-star caliber Andrelton Simmons has also produced for Los Angeles this season, batting .307 with an OPS of .807, both career highs.

Through the rockiness of the offense, the Angels pitching staff has been ridden with injury and turmoil. Shohei Ohtani will no longer pitch this season due to injury. Pitchers Kenyan Middleton and Matt Shoemaker are among those who are out for the season. Their bullpen has yet to establish themselves as trustworthy with a lead. Simply put, the offense cannot carry Los Angeles to victories on their own. If Los Angeles wants any chance of surpassing the Mariners, their pitching must help carry some of the load.

Seattle has taken advantage to widen the gap in the standings as they have witnessed the Angels slump in the months of June and July. The Halos did get a game back on Seattle Tuesday night after roughing up pitcher Mike Leake for 11 hits over 4 innings.

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Realistically, the Mariners would have to implode after the All-Star break to miss the postseason this fall. Although Seattle wants to dethrone Houston and win their division, anything can happen in a one-game wild-card playoff. But first, the Mariners must hold off the AL challengers.