Mariners face long, hard road to the playoffs

The Mariners need to survive a tough August to make a run at the wildcard.

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Seattle’s record currently stands at 41-43 and they’re playoff odds stand at just over just over a hair at 20%, and the M’s have very little chance of catching the first place Astros in the West. The M’s need to survive a ridiculously tough stretch that is their schedule in August if they’re going to end their 16-year playoff drought.

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Manager Scott Servias’s team has struggled with injuries, but is still in the playoff hunt. (Elaine Thompson/AP – Seattle Times)

In August, the Mariners will face only one team that isn’t in playoff race, and that’s the Oakland Athletics, in August; even the Braves…the BRAVES!…are still “technically” in the hunt for a wildcard berth.  Seattle’s trip down to Atlanta comes at the beginning of 12 game swing on the east coast, half of those games come against teams that currently hold a playoff spot — the Yankees and Rays. This east coast swing is how the Mariners will close out the brutal month of August, which starts off with an eight game road trip that includes a swing through Texas and Kansas City, before concluding with a quick two game series against the Athletics.

What’s really the M’s only saving grace in their August schedule is a quick six game home stand against the Angels and Orioles; both teams are fighting for their playoff lives as well. The Angels have continued to stay in the playoff hunt, despite the prolonged absence of superstar centerfielder Mike Trout; whom they’re hoping to have back after the All Star break, just in time to play Scott Servias’s squad.

Servias’s squad will be without starting pitcher Drew Smyly for the rest of the season after it was announced that he needs Tommy John surgery last week. The loss of Smyly is devastating because the team had been hoping his return would bolster the 24th best starting rotation (according to Fangraphs). Instead Seattle is going to have to hope that Sam Gavigilo can continue to outperform his FIP and xFIP while eating up innings as well as holding opposing teams to a paltry .241 batting average against him ; the M’s will also have to hope that Andrew Moore continues to eat up innings, not walking batters, and only giving up solo shots if they’re going to push through to the playoffs.

The good news is that Felix Hernandez has been somewhat more “Felixy” in his two starts since he returned from the DL. Hernandez has pitched 12 innings with his strikeout rate has been more in line with his career norms (around 22%) and his walk rate is below his career norm (at 8%). Admittedly 12 innings is an absurdly small sample size, but the increase in his strikeout rate from where it was at the beginning of the season and the decrease in the walk rate is encouraging.

If Felix can continue to perform at this level consistently, he’ll help stabilize a starting rotation that has struggled to stay healthy (and perform consistently) throughout the season.

Even better news for the Mariners is the fact that September’s schedule is significantly easier than August, but it’ll still be tougher than June. So if Seattle can be at — or over — .500 heading into the final month of the season, they should be in great shape to make a playoff run…as long as the M’s able to stay healthy.

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