I know a lot of Mariner fans are feeling giddy right now, and why not? They haven’t had much to celebrate, and these last two wins — back-to-back brilliant outings by Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez, over the Yankees, no less — have been exhilirating. They are precisely the blueprint for the successful Mariners season many of us envisioned.
Put it together with a surge that has seen the Mariners win nine of their last 12, and I’m seeing a lot of sentiment for keeping Lee and going for it. Hey, miracles happen, right?
Yeah, they do. But a miracle is precisely what it’s going to take.
The Angels currently stand 44-36, while the Mariners are 33-44. If the Angels merely play .500 ball the rest of the season (41-41), they would finish 85-77. That would require the Mariners to go 52-33 (.612), the remainder of the way to catch them and force a one-game playoff (and the Mariners have a good history with those when it comes to the Angels).
But the Angels, as we have seen, are a time-tested team that under Mike Scioscia in recent years has put together second-half surges. In winning three of the last four AL West titles, the Angels, after the All-Star break, have gone 48-28 (.632), 43-24 (.642), 41-33 (.554) and 46-28 (.622).
Using the low number as a gauge, if the Angels play .549 ball the rest of the season (45-37), they would finish 89-73. That would require the Mariners to go 56-29 (.659) to catch them.
And if the Angels do what they typically do, and take off, the M’s are in even bigger trouble. If the Angels go 49-33 — .598 — they would finish 93-69, requiring the Mariners to go 60-25 (.706) to finish in a tie.
All that is daunting, to say the least. But here’s a bigger problem: The Mariners aren’t trying to catch just the Angels. They’re also trying to catch the Rangers, who are 4 1/2 games ahead of the Angels at 47-30. Make that doubly daunting for the Mariners.
Playing the same game, if the Rangers play one game under .500 the rest of the way at 42-43, they would finish 89-73. To finish with 89 wins, the Mariners would have to go 56-29, which as we’ve already seen, would require them to play at a .659 pace to catch Texas.
If the Rangers played .553 the rest of the way (47-38), they would finish 94-68. The M’s would have to go 61-24 — a mere .718 winning percentage — to pull even.
And if the Rangers stay hot and play .600 the remainder of the year (51-34), they would finish at 98-64. The Mariners would have to go 65-20 (.765) to catch the Rangers.
Ah, but what about the wild card, you say? That doesn’t look good, either. Not only are the Mariners 13 games behind the Boston Red Sox — another playoff-tested team — but they are also trailing Tampa Bay (12 games), the Angels (9 1/2), Tigers (8), White Sox (7), Blue Jays (6) and A’s (4). That’s another long, long road — all uphill — for the Mariners.
Let’s look at it one more way: the greatest comeback in baseball history was pulled off by the 1914 Boston “Miracle” Braves, who were 15 games out of first place on July 6 and won the pennant.
The Mariners, on June 28, were 15 games behind the Rangers. If you believe this team is capable of matching the greatest comeback in baseball history — or overcoming seven teams in the wild-card race — then by all means, advocate that the Mariners “go for it.”
But my belief system isn’t that strong. I’m going to stick to reality.