What has fueled Mariners' post-Deadline surge?

August 8th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer’s Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SEATTLE -- This era of Mariners baseball, in so many ways, has been defined by midsummer turning points, when any given season either looked stale, in a spiral or somewhere in between, before the club emphatically turned things around.

If they continue on their current trajectory, riding a stretch as arguably MLB’s hottest team over the past month, they might have a moment to point to when they finally broke through the .500 bubble and steered upward. It came on July 1, one day after they fell to four games under, surrendered 15 unanswered runs to Tampa Bay and walked off the field amid a smattering of rare boos at T-Mobile Park.

Since then, Seattle’s 22-10 record is tied with Baltimore for MLB’s best, and the club has climbed from six games behind in the race for the final AL Wild Card spot to three games out, jumping four teams in the process. The Mariners are the first team on the outside looking in and have pushed their FanGraphs playoff odds from 10.3% to 26.9%, their highest since May 28, when they were at 28.7%.

Those aren’t the only numbers that have stood out during this turnaround:

112 -- The number of games played (and the pace)
The Mariners enter this five-game homestand against San Diego and AL-leading Baltimore with precisely the same record they did through the same number of games last year (60-52). Yet by that point, they’d already cleared their 14-game winning streak, a huge component in thrusting themselves back into the playoff race.

They’ve reached the stage of the season when math comes more into play. Last year, when the postseason expanded to three Wild Card teams from each league instead of two, it took only 86 wins for the Rays to lock up the final spot in the AL and 87 in the NL from the Phillies, who soared to the World Series.

This AL field feels deeper, but already the Angels have tumbled from 19.5% odds to 1.4% since going all in at the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline, losing every game since. The Red Sox stayed still at the Deadline, the Yankees have been inconsistent and the Blue Jays have been so hot-and-cold.

If the Mariners can reach 90 wins for the third consecutive year, or come close to it, their chances of getting in appear strong. But doing so would necessitate them keeping this pace.

.645 -- The win percentage when Julio reaches base 
So how do they keep winning? A big component rides on the shoulders of , who’s batting .305/.368/.496 (.864 OPS) since the start of July. As he goes, so go the Mariners.

Rodríguez’s slash line, 2023
In wins: .314/.376/.535 (.910 OPS)
In losses: .191/.258/.314 (.572 OPS)

Rodríguez’s career-best 27-game on-base streak ended last Wednesday, but he immediately followed it up by reaching in each of his next three games. And with the way J.P. Crawford is swinging, with a .434 on-base percentage since July, he could continue to have a regular run-scorer on base.

“Just simplifying and not trying to do much,” Rodríguez told reporters in Anaheim of his turnaround. “Just stay simple and try to hit the ball where it wants to go. ... I feel like that’s something I knew, but sometimes you’ve got to adjust. Sometimes you’ve got to take it down.”

8 -- The number of one-run victories since July 
The narrative of the 2021 and 2022 teams centered heavily on thriving in leverage moments, leading MLB in one-run victories each year. Then, they scuffled to a 7-15 record in such games to start 2023, before quietly turning things around since July, going 8-5 in games decided by one run.

In unison, the Mariners’ bullpen has MLB’s best ERA (2.52) and highest K rate (30.9%) in that stretch. It also ranks second in WHIP (1.06) and has surrendered the third-fewest inherited runners (seven).

Paul Sewald was a big part of that, and he’s no longer here after last week’s trade with Arizona. But the Mariners felt confident enough in this group to subtract from a strength of the big league roster to add a need, via Dominic Canzone and Josh Rojas in exchange for Sewald. Tayler Saucedo’s big moment on Sunday and Matt Brash’s on Saturday were part of a reason why.

This season is far from turned around, but the Mariners have positioned themselves well for a late-summer swing -- which if recent history has shown, is when they play their best.