SEATTLE -- Is there ever such a thing as a 100% guarantee in Major League Baseball? No one ever bats 1.000, after all.
Yet with the schedule dwindling and October inching closer, playoff projections gain more credibility. And those odds from FanGraphs, which have favored the Mariners’ chances for most of the second half, skyrocketed to 99.5% after their seven-game winning streak, which was snapped against the White Sox on Monday.
“I'm really happy with where we're at,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said as the team opened an eight-game homestand on Monday. “Just consistently every night out, I think when we start the game, everybody in our dugout feels we're going to win the game. We don't quite know how we're going to do it.”
How are they doing it? Why are their odds so lofty? And what else has to go right for Seattle to snap its lengthy playoff drought?
1. They’re finally hitting
So much of the Mariners' struggles in the first half were rooted in their offensive inconsistencies, particularly their challenges to cash in with runners on base. With a longer lineup -- Mitch Haniger being healthy, Ty France emerging from a lengthy slump and Cal Raleigh blossoming into one of MLB’s top power-hitting catchers -- they have more bullets to fire, and they’re all clicking at once.
Over their seven-game win streak, the Mariners scored 41 runs and averaged 5.9 runs per game, with an AL-high 14 homers in that stretch. They were also hitting .328 with runners in scoring position during the streak. Pitching has carried them all season, and during the streak, Seattle’s starters posted a 0.92 ERA and left with shutouts intact in five of those seven games. But the bats have caught up.
“It's home runs, which we have hit a lot of recently, which has helped,” Servais said. “I think the way the game is today, you kind of need to hit homers. It’s really hard when you don’t. It's hard to put four or five hits together in an inning. We've also done a really good job and we continue to do a good job of grinding through [opposing] pitchers.”
2. They’re winning on the road
Earlier this summer, the brutal road travel was wearing the club down. But after four separate trips from the Pacific to Eastern Time Zones through their first half, the Mariners navigated the meat of their schedule and have emerged as one of MLB’s better road teams.
The Mariners became just the third team in MLB history to sweep two six-game road trips in one season, and their 41 road wins trail only the Dodgers (45) and Astros (43), arguably the two favorites to reach the World Series. For a Mariners club that will travel 46,385 miles this season, second most in MLB, it’s been a notable turnaround.
“We’ve hit much better on the road,” Servais said. “We have been hitting more homers. Some of the ballparks we’ve been to are more conducive to home runs than [T-Mobile Park], but we have swung the bats better on the road than maybe we have at home.”
3. Their schedule after this homestand
The Mariners have built enough cushion in the AL Wild Card standings to where this eight-game homestand isn’t make or break. But it’s still a big one, with three against the White Sox, three against the Braves and two against the Padres.
Yet even with this slate against contending teams, the Mariners still entered the week with the second-easiest strength of schedule the rest of the way, as their opponents’ have a combined .443 winning percentage. No team in MLB is a rollover, and the games still need to be played, but also consider that the teams surrounding them in the AL East -- the Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles and Rays -- all play each other a lot down the stretch, too.