Homers back Ray's no-hit bid as Mariners answer 'Costco' challenge

August 24th, 2022

SEATTLE -- Even if the Mariners are allowing themselves to envision the postseason, Scott Servais tersely shot down the notion that the unspoken yet added pressure of a 21-year drought has crept into the Mariners’ clubhouse.

Speaking ahead of a six-game homestand after a not-so-great road trip, Servais was asked about the stakes of the final six weeks of the regular season.

“Let me make a statement on the 40 games left,” Servais said, his voice rising. “I’m going to make it today. I’m not going to talk about it again. We can only play one game today. We can only win one game today. You can’t win games in bulk. You can’t play games in bulk. We’re not Costco, OK? Costco does everything in bulk. We don’t. We play one game.”

Hours -- and one game -- later, the Mariners’ schedule was down to 39, putting them one day -- and one win -- closer to October following a 4-2 victory over the Nationals at T-Mobile Park on Tuesday. Wins might not come in bulk, but home runs did, with two-run blasts from Eugenio Suárez and Mitch Haniger backing Robbie Ray, who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

Maybe it was the road trip that ended with a series loss to last-place Oakland, or the 5 1/2 games that separates the six teams in the AL Wild Card race. For whatever reason, Servais -- who does shop at Costco -- wanted to hammer home the message that the Mariners need to be insular in their daily approach if they’re going to take this postseason push into deep October.

“I don’t know how many games we are going to win the rest of the year,” Servais said. “I know we have a really good team. We’ve worked our tail off to put ourselves in this position. ... I wish you could get games in bulk, wins in bulk, because I would be first in line at Costco if you could pick them up over there, but you can’t.”

Perhaps fittingly, Servais’ starting pitcher in Tuesday’s series opener has echoed the one-day-at-a-time mantra all season. Ray, after all, has been on playoff teams before, in 2017 with Arizona and 2020 with Toronto. He was also on the 2018 D-backs team that completely cratered that September.

“We're down here at the end, the last months of the season, so it's time to get going,” Ray said. “But just understanding that winning every pitch, I’ve talked about that all the time, on both sides of the ball -- one pitch at a time.”

Haniger, who passionately wrote in the Players’ Tribune last October that the Mariners need to end their drought, said the experience of coming oh-so-close should help them this time around.

“We know how it can go down to the wire, and how every game can be big,” Haniger said. “So whether it's August or April, it doesn't matter. We have to prepare the right way and expect to win.”

After Tuesday, the Mariners’ postseason odds climbed to 91.2%, per FanGraphs, the AL’s fourth highest behind the Astros (100%), Yankees (100%) and Blue Jays (94.3%). The 100% odds do not mean that Houston and New York have clinched a berth, but over 10,000 computer simulations, those teams missed the playoffs zero times. Seattle isn’t far behind.

Yet, those are merely projections, and in the real world circumstances can change. Factor in the Mariners having the easiest strength of schedule among all 30 teams the rest of the way, and not making it to the postseason would be nothing short of a major collapse.

But that’s getting way too far ahead, especially after defeating arguably MLB’s worst team in front of a ticketed crowd of 38,254. It was a game that Seattle was supposed to win, and it did.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Servais said of the final stretch. “Just another thing, our team, these guys haven’t been here for 21 years. I haven’t been here for 21 years. Again, the most important thing is today’s game.”

Servais’ Costco commentary was obviously rehearsed and a clear encapsulation of his objected messaging. The Mariners' goals are still right in front of them -- but they’re not there yet.

“It just made sense to me,” Servais said, laughing. “The bulk thing, you can’t do it. Baseball is every day. That’s the beauty of it. That’s why we love it until we get to the point in the season where it’s like, ‘Oh gosh, I just want to fast forward this. Let’s just get to the end of it.’ No. We play every day. That’s the beauty of it.”