SEATTLE -- As the Mariners have surged near the top of the American League West standings, now just one game back of first place entering Friday, tied with Houston, most eyes outside the clubhouse have turned their attention well beyond this six-game homestand and instead to the final stretch of the regular season.
After their final off-day on Sept. 21, the Mariners will play 10 games in 10 days -- three at Texas, three at home vs. Houston and four at home vs. Texas -- a stretch that almost assuredly will determine their postseason fate.
Can they win their first AL West title since 2001? Will they have to settle for an AL Wild Card? Or could they tumble out of it altogether with a bad week? Each of those scenarios could very realistically be in play, meaning that a playoff-type environment could begin for all three AL West teams well before October. All of this hinges, of course, on the Mariners continuing to keep pace in a dominant second half.
“We look at [the standings] all the time, or at least I do,” J.P. Crawford said. “There's a lot at stake right now. All these games matter, and if there's a chance to see a score or something, yeah, I'm looking at it. ... That's the goal at the beginning of the season -- try to win the division and go for the World Series, and we're in a good spot. If we just keep playing the way we are and everyone has each other's backs, we're going to be in a good spot.”
With that final week in mind, it’s never too early to look at tiebreaker scenarios that the Mariners face against each team. A quick refresher on tiebreakers is here, but the top three in order are head-to-head record, intradivision record (vs. AL West) and interdivision record (vs. AL).
Seattle sits at 71-56 and 22-11 against the division.
GB of SEA: +1
Head-to-head vs. SEA: 5-1
Intradivision record: 21-15
The Mariners could wind up paying mightily for arguably their worst sweep of the season in early June in Arlington, when they were outscored, 30-9. They’ll need to go 6-1 against Texas in that final week to ensure a better head-to-head.
GB of SEA: Even
Head-to-head vs. SEA: 2-8
Intradivision record: 26-17
After their resounding three-game sweep last weekend, the Mariners have secured a winning record against Houston the rest of the way.
Here are the tiebreakers among teams they’re battling in the Wild Card, beyond Houston. The top Wild Card is important, as it represents the lone non-division-winning seed home-field advantage in the best-of-three Wild Card Series. And there are no more Game 163s, if teams finish the regular season tied.
Blue Jays (70-58)
GB of SEA: -1.5
Head-to-head vs. SEA: 3-3
Intradivision record: 12-25
Barring a dramatic turn, Toronto’s brutal record against the AL East has all but ensured that the Mariners will hold the head-to-head advantage with their Canadian rivals.
Red Sox (68-60)
GB of SEA: -3.5
Head-to-head vs. SEA: 3-3
Intradivision record: 19-14
Boston lurks, but it hasn’t occupied even a share of an AL Wild Card spot since May 12. Moreover, it has MLB’s second-hardest remaining schedule.
And here are teams that they’re chasing for the AL’s top seed, since we’re assuming that the AL Central winner will be the lowest division-winning seed.
GB of SEA: +8
Head-to-head vs. SEA: 4-2
Intradivision record: 26-15
If not for two extra-innings losses earlier this month -- including George Kirby’s nine shutout innings -- in what may have been Seattle’s most competitive series of the season, the Mariners might own the head-to-head. Seattle also dropped two of three at Camden Yards in June, both defeats being close.
October rematch, anyone?
GB of SEA: +6
Head-to-head vs. SEA: 1-2
Intradivision record: 20-14
If the Mariners do reach the postseason, their June 30 matchup at T-Mobile Park with the Rays will represent their season’s distinct turning point. Seattle surrendered 15 unanswered runs that night and walked off the field to an uncharacteristic smattering of boos while dropping to 10 games out of first place.
The next day, the calendar flipped to July, and Seattle has MLB’s most wins since (33-14), beginning with two straight wins over the Rays. These teams still have a four-gamer at Tropicana Field from Sept. 7-10.