SEATTLE – In the words of the late, great Dave Niehaus, “It just continues.”
If you have to pinch yourself today, you’re not alone. The Seattle Mariners kept their playoff dreams very much alive Wednesday night with a 4-2 win over the Oakland A’s in front of a crowd of 17,366 (that sounded more like 40,000) at T-Mobile Park.
They followed the formula that’s worked all year – solid starting pitching (5⅔ innings of one-run ball by Logan Gilbert), timely hitting (a screaming two-run double by Jarred Kelenic in the sixth inning) and a lock-down bullpen to close things out.
It’s the same formula that allowed the M’s to sprint to an 11-2 record over the past 13 days, with seven of the 11 coming against the Oakland A’s. With maybe a little magic dust sprinkled in.
The Mariners didn’t play Thursday, but the magic incomprehensibly continued. The 107-loss Orioles — also known as the worst team in the American League — did the Mariners a HUGE favor by knocking off the Red Sox 6-2 Thursday night, taking two of three from Boston and allowing the M’s to move up one-half game into a tie for the second wild-card spot with three games to play. Don’t be surprised if you see orange Orioles shirts popping up around Seattle this weekend.
Elsewhere, the Yankees hung on to beat the Blue Jays 6-2 to win two of their three-game series in Toronto and build a two-game lead over Boston and Seattle for the top wild-card spot. Meanwhile, the Astros put to rest any illusions of Seattle taking the AL West with a 3-2 win over the Rays.
With the unexpected rise in the standings, the Mariners’ playoff odds also shot up to 42% Thursday, according to fivethirtyeight.com — up from 26% earlier in the day. ESPN.com has Seattle’s playoff chances at 27.4%.
The final series vs. the Angels, which begins Friday night, will feature three of the most highly anticipated baseball games Seattle has seen in two decades. And the Mariners are in control of their own future.
Here’s a look at what’s ahead for the Mariners, and the other teams in the AL wild-card race:
Remaining games for the Mariners (tied with Red Sox, two games behind Yankees):
3 games vs. Los Angeles Angels (75-83)
Remaining games for the Red Sox (tied with Mariners):
3 games at Nationals (65-93)
Remaining games for the Blue Jays (one game behind Mariners and Red Sox):
3 games vs. Orioles (51-107)
Remaining games for the Yankees (two games ahead of Red Sox and Mariners)
3 games vs. Rays (98-60)
The second wild-card team will face the wild-card winner at its home field Tuesday. If there is a tie between two or more teams for a wild-card spot, there would be a tiebreaker game Monday.
The margin for error is still small for Seattle, but the window is wide open. The most likely scenario for Seattle to make the wild-card game is by going 3-0 while the Red Sox go 2-1. If both teams go 3-0, it could set up a tie and a Game 163, provided New York holds onto the first spot.
The Yankees would have to go 1-2 in their final three with the Mariners winning out to set up a similar situation. . So, yeah, Mariners fans are rooting for the Birds once again.
Got all that? OK, good.
Now buckle up.
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