How The Mariners Look Against Their 3 Most Likely Playoff Opponents

How The Mariners Look Against Their 3 Most Likely Playoff Opponents
Wild Card Series - Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Two
Wild Card Series - Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Two / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

Since the start of September, the Mariners have been caught in a heated battle with the Blue Jays and Rangers for the last two AL Wild Card spots. Furthermore, they're just a few games behind the division-leading Astros so depending on how all of these teams perform in the final stretch of regular season games, there are a few different ways the playoff bracket might shaking out.

Most Likely: Mariners Enter As The #6 Seed And Face The Twins, Blue Jays Miss The Postseason

Of the three main Wild Card contenders, the Blue Jays are the least likely to earn a playoff spot with FanGraphs giving them just a 47.7% chance to get there. After a hot June, they've regressed slightly and most importantly, just ceded crucial ground to the Texas Rangers, getting swept in a four-game series.

Given the drama surrounding the willingness of Alek Manoah to report to the minor leagues after being optioned, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s down year (1.5 rWAR), and Bo Bichette's freezing cold stretch since the All-Star Break, it seems that the only thing going well north of the border is Davis Schneider's preposterous and clearly unsustainable rookie performance. Already accumulating the ninth most WAR on the team despite playing fewer than 30 games, Schneider is slashing .326/.451/.717. Either way, one man is never enough in the sport of baseball.

Given Toronto's negative momentum and their high strength of remaining schedule, the Mariners and Rangers should join the Rays as the bottom three seeds. More specifically, the Rangers are projected to have a slight edge over the Mariners to take the #5 spot but much will be decided in the remaining seven games the teams will have to play against each other.

This means they would face the Twins in the first round. Going a pretty even 4-3 against Minnesota this season, the series seems competitive at first glance. However, the Twins have been on a tear since the All-Star break, posting the fourth highest team OPS in baseball (.810). Rookie names like Royce Lewis and Edouard Julien have ignited the team's offense and other factors like Max Kepler's second half OPS of .923 have given them a boost in potency.

The pitching is comparatively weak, posting a team ERA of 4.24 but with a consistent rotation and serviceable bullpen, Seattle's best chance is to lean on their strong 1-2 punch of Luis Castillo/George Kirby to give them a chance to cut down the Twins bats before they get hot in a short series. Sonny Gray may be challenging but Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan, and Bailey Ober should be just mortal enough to give up a few earned runs.

Also Likely: Mariners Squeak Past the Rangers for the #5 Seed, Face the Orioles

While the AL East remains to be decided as the Orioles and Rays are truly neck-and-neck, FanGraphs is giving the Rays a slight edge to secure the division (55.2%). Despite a midsummer slump and losing the vast majority of their key pitching staff to injury, turns out Tampa Bay is still incredibly dangerous.

In the event that the Rays win their division and Seattle is able to leapfrog Texas, they'll end up facing an even more skilled team than the Minnesota Twins (woohoo, AL Central!). The Baltimore Orioles took the baseball world by storm, taking full advantage of skilled position players like Adley Rutschmann and Gunnar Henderson while deploying one of the most unhittable bullpens in the sport. Their combined reliever ERA of 3.54 is second to only the New York Yankees.

Having already gone 2-4 against the Orioles this season which included a somewhat disappointing Felix Hernandez weekend, Baltimore has been a thorn in Seattle's side this season, coming up clutch at the worst times.

It's well known that the Orioles main weakness is their rotation. Despite adding Jack Flaherty and calling up Grayson Rodriguez, Baltimore's starter ERA of 4.41 is 16th in MLB. If the Mariners want to do damage, they'll have to do it within the first half of the game. Otherwise, stringing together balls in play against the likes of Yennier Cano, Danny Coulombe, and Cionel Perez will be challenging. This is also taking the optimistic stance that Felix Bautista, the best reliever in MLB, will not have recovered from his UCL injury in time for the postseason.

Unlikely But Let's Hope: Mariners Win the AL West, Take The #2 Seed

This probably won't happen. The Astros have one of the weakest schedules remaining and have a 60.5% chance to win the division. However, the Mariners will have a chance to gain ground in a three-game series at the end of September and Seattle has absolutely dominated Houston this year, going 8-2 against them in this season's contests. So maybe there's a chance. If the Mariners do decide to turn on the jets, start swinging the bat, and attacking the strike zone, they just might win the AL West for the first time since the team's legendary 2001 season.

In that case, they'll get a bye and face the winner of the #6 seed vs. #3 seed. If the Astros get thrown into the Wild Card picture, they'll probably be there with the Rangers (like I said, the outlook is really not so good for Blue Jays fans) and the Rangers will face the Twins in the first round.

Sure, the Texas Rangers are 2-5 against Minnesota this year but the Twins also have a record-setting 18-game losing streak in the playoffs so there's a chance we'll see yet another AL West matchup in the ALDS. Against the Rangers in 2023, Seattle is 1-5 so it's not the best matchup but the bye will allow them to be more rested. Additionally, with Max Scherzer sidelined, Dane Dunning forgetting what made him great, and Eovaldi returning from injury, the Mariners can hopefully secure victory by swinging aggressively and walking Corey Seager. Did I mention their bullpen is one of the worst in baseball (4.94 ERA, 26th in MLB)?

No matter what happens, the road ahead will be arduous and the M's will need to perform at the highest level to maintain their spot in the competitive playoff race.