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August 19, 2012 at 6:31 PM

Can the Mariners sneak back into wild-card contention? We’ll know by month’s end

Look, I’m not going to call the Mariners wild-card contenders when they’re 8 1/2 games back with five teams to jump over. That’s just not very smart odds for anybody to be betting on and I’d have told you the same thing two weeks ago when the M’s were on their seven-gme win streak. Very tough to make up ground.
But, many of you keep asking my opinion on the matter. And for an explanation of my thinking that led to the opinion. So, here it is:
The only way to even have this discussion for real is for the M’s to go on another win streak of seven games. Or, probably more like 10 games. Maybe win 13 of 15 or something.
That’ll position you to get back in the race.
Can the Mariners do it? Who am I to say they can’t. The Mariners have fashioned the second-best record in the AL since the break with a 22-13 mark. How have they done it?
They’ve gone 7-1 against a .450 Royals team.
Gone 3-0 against a .463 Toronto team that’s played .371 ball since the break.
Gone 3-0 against a Minnesota team that’s played .417 ball this season.
So, that’s 13-1 against the bad teams.
They have also won two series against the Tampa Bay Rays, going 4-2 overall.
And they took two out of three from the Angels, beating up on an awful Dan Haren and taking out a very good Jered Weaver. The Angels are now in a secnd-half freefall, but it’s tough to say they don’t have a talented roster.
Other than that, they went 1-6 against the Yankees and Orioles.
That’s been the second half, fattened on the backs of some inept and plummeting squads with some surprisingly strong series against a couple of good teams and some losing ones against other good teams. They all count as wins and losses, though and the team’s second-half record is looking a lot better than the first half’s as a result.
This isn’t a judgement. It just is what it is. In the past two seasons, the Mariners have lost games to teams they should have beaten. This second half, they are laying a pounding on the teams they should beat. Probably beating them at a higher rate than even good teams expect to win in a bunch of MLB series. Playing .600 ball against awful teams is good at this level. Winning 13 of 14 is outstanding. That in itself is an improvement over last year.
Should we be talking wild-card? No. Not yet.
Here’s why.


First, the M’s are running out of games. So, as I said, they would have to go on an extended run just to position themselves to make a difference in September.
And they have the chance to do that right here.
The Cleveland Indians have played .277 ball since the break and the Twins laid a thumping on them recently.
So, the first order is to take care of business against them the next three days.
After that, the Mariners get another four-game crack at the Twins in Minneapolis, but only after playing the White Sox in Chicago first. So, can the M’s come out of this homestand with an eight-game win streak? Sure they can, especially with Felix Hernandez facing the Indians. That’s not even fair.
Then, if they can somehow take two in Chicago and three in Minnesota, that’s a 5-2 trip and a 13 out of 15 run.
Do that, and you’ve positioned yourself for the final month when the Mariners get to play nine against the Angels and six against Oakland. Problem is, the M’s also get to play a bunch of other teams with something at stake.
There will be no more Twins, or Royals, though they will get the sinking-like-a-rock Blue Jays again.
But first things first. Keep taking care of business this month against the woebegones of the AL. Then, worry about September if you can get on an extended run.
Otherwise, predicting a leapfrog of five teams in a race you trail by 8 1/2 games is crazy talk.
The only thing making it not crazy right now is how the Mariners keep beating the not-so-good teams at a fantastic rate.
So, that’s my take.
Get to September, and if the M’s have rolled off 13 wins in 15 games, we can start thinking about the wild-card. Until then, just enjoy the ride. It beats losing a bunch of one-run games. The Mariners took care of business this weekend and have won the games they should against teams that came here with less than their best.
They have played other teams tough and won a few of those games as well.
The result, if this keeps up, could be an improved record over last season and a step in the right direction. Will it mean a pennant for next year? No, that’s a whole other discussion.
But for now, it means a little more fun this month. So, keep watching. Come Aug. 31, if the M’s can vault themselves back to the realm of a .500 club, we’ll start to worry about September.
Let’s see how the M’s do against Cleveland.

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