Keys to Victory
How much more can you give me?
As dominant as our pitching staff has been all season, I think we all can feel the stress and fatigue the pitching has experienced in September. A dominant trip to Oakland, paired with a rest day yesterday, and there should be optimism that Seattle's staff and bullpen can hold the line for just 10 more days. Opponents like the Rangers and Astros want to get in a shootout with you, but Seattle controls the game if they make it a pitching and defensive battle.
Fend off the lefties
You can make a strong case that these ten games will be decided by how well the Mariners fare against some of the best left handed hitters in the game: Corey Seager, Yordan Alvarez, and Kyle Tucker.
Mariners fans know all too well the pain that Tucker and Alvarez can deliver, but there should be some real nervousness about seeing the brother of M's legend Kyle Seager and MVP candidate. Seattle's playoff hopes will likely rely on Tayler Saucedo and Gabe Speier's ability to win those important matchups vs Hall of Fame caliber players in the later innings of close ball games. Anybody else feeling a little sweaty?
Two role players need to step up
It'd be great to see Ty France, Dominic Canzone, Mike Ford, Jarred Kelenic, and Geno Suarez all get hot in the final stretch. If they did, the Mariners are probably riding a 13 game winning streak to an AL West title. Baseball doesn't work like that, and not everyone handles the moment. I'd love to see a few more Canzone moon shots, but he has never been in a situation like this before. This comes down to the guys that have been there.
France, Suarez, and Kelenic. They were all there for the playoff push last season. They experienced the highs of Toronto and lows of Houston. They should be prepared for this next moment. If Seattle wants to guarantee a playoff berth, two of these guys need to step up. Suarez had a good series against Oakland (4-12 with 2 Doubles) and absolutely owned the Rangers last year, getting 19 hits in 19 games against Texas. If Kelenic can keep up his ability to make contact and avoid strikeouts, he'll be an extremely valuable bat at the bottom of the lineup.
Big time players make big plays in big moments
Role players help you hold home field advantage and tend to play better in front of cheering home fans, but stars deliver no matter the venue. If the Mariners are going to win the AL West, it starts by setting the tone on Arlington, and your best players need to send a message. This run will be defined by what Julio Rodriguez, JP Crawford, Cal Raleigh and Teoscar Hernandez can, or can't accomplish.
Anybody that has read my articles (thank you!) knows how strongly I feel about needing four core offensive pillars if you want any hope of making it to the ALCS or further. History has shown over 80% of teams that played in an LCS, had 4 or more players with an OPS+ of 120 or higher in their lineup. All four of the Mariners I mentioned meet or are within range of that magical number.
We saw last year in Toronto, the stars stepped up early. Julio got on base, scored on a double and then Cal Raleigh sent Alek Manoah into an early retirement with a massive 2-run homer run. JP drew two BB's at the 9 hole. In game 2's epic comeback, Raleigh went 3 for 4 while Crawford's massive bases-clearing double tied the game late. We all saw what Hernandez was capable of in the big moment for Toronto, and Seattle will need that tonight.
If 3 of the core players can step up, and help get Seattle a quick start in game one, and in the series at Texas, the pressure will completely swing to their side, and the dam could burst quickly.