Raleigh, Hernández key Mariners' seventh straight win

August 22nd, 2023

CHICAGO -- It might be time to start discussing the Mariners’ increasing odds of not just contending for an American League Wild Card berth, but maybe even a division title. It’s certainly time for the team to continue stacking wins like their 14-2 victory on Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Seattle extended its win streak to seven and put the game out of reach from the get-go -- all on a day where Julio Rodríguez was named the AL Player of the Week then had a scheduled off-day. The Mariners sent 10 batters to the plate in the first inning against Touki Toussaint, drew four walks, capitalized on two errors and a wild pitch and scored five runs before Luis Castillo took the mound.

and padded the lead with back-to-back homers in the fifth, Hernández ripped a two-run single in the sixth, Raleigh belted a three-run blast in the eighth and Dominic Canzone followed with a solo homer that put the finishing touches on the night well before the 27th out -- especially given the way Castillo was pitching.

“La Piedra” surrendered a pair of doubles in the first inning but completely cruised after, retiring 15 in a row at one point and overpowering the White Sox almost exclusively via his two fastballs, including 47 in a row. Castillo cleared the seventh inning to spell a heavily-taxed bullpen that was called on for seven innings on Sunday in Houston.

It all chalked up to a take-care-of-business-type victory, one that advanced the club to 15 games above .500 (70-55), extending a season high.

Last year, the Mariners didn’t climb this far above .500 until Sept. 1, when they occupied the second AL Wild Card spot that they wound up securing. But by that point, the division was all but decided, with the Astros holding an 11-game lead. Yet in the wake of Seattle’s three-game sweep in Houston over the weekend, the 2023 AL West race is wide open.

And moreover, that sweep -- in a venue that for years has been their house of horrors -- shows that anything might be possible this season.

“We were at a point where it was time to get going,” Raleigh said. “We'd rather not wait until the last second -- we kind of have a knack for doing that -- but we're playing a lot better now. We've just got to kind of keep our head down and we've got to keep going because we know there's a lot of baseball to be played. Teams are still in the thick of it.”

The Mariners’ postseason odds from FanGraphs have reached a new season high with each passing day, sitting at 63.9 percent on Monday. But it’s their odds to win the AL West that have begun to climb, too, now at their highest since 2016.

AL West standings (division title odds, per FanGraphs) 
Rangers: 72-53 (38.9%)
Astros: 70-55, 1.5 GB (41.9%)
Mariners: 70-55, 2 GB (19.1%)

Again, odds are just odds, and the team must still perform, but this upcoming stretch will serve as an ample opportunity to stack wins.

Monday marked the beginning of a nine-game stretch to close out August against three of the four teams with the worst records in MLB -- the White Sox (49-76), Royals (40-86) and A’s (34-90), which is followed by a three-game series against the Mets (59-67), who’ve tumbled nearly to last place in the NL East.

There are still five weeks remaining, a workload management situation to monitor with their three rookie pitchers -- one of whom, Emerson Hancock, was placed on the 15-day injured list on Monday -- and a 10-game gauntlet against Texas and Houston to finish the regular season.

“Our guys are locked in,” manager Scott Servais said. “The first inning, game plan, understanding who’s on the mound against us, what we want to do as a team and then how we figure out how we’re going to beat them.”

With a pitching staff that’s carried the club all year -- particularly when they spent 23 days at .500 through July 24, which remains an MLB high -- and an offense that has shown sustained life for well over a month, there’s far more legitimacy to their second-half surge.

The Mariners advanced to 52-8 when scoring five runs this year, which they reached in the first inning alone on Monday, a stat among the most telling of their supreme pitching staff and ability to suppress runs.

It all seems to be coming together -- and at a perfect time for a late-season playoff push.