With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the Seattle Mariners are still in the hunt for a playoff spot.
It’s safe to say not many preseason prognosticators saw that coming, considering the Mariners haven’t made the postseason since 2001, the longest drought in the four major professional sports.
The Mariners (77-66) will open a three-game series at home against the Boston Red Sox (81-64) on Monday night, one of the teams they’re chasing for an American League wild-card berth.
“No one expected us to even be in this spot, regardless. We’ve got nothing to lose,” Seattle shortstop J.P. Crawford said.
Boston is tied with Toronto for the first wild-card berth, with Seattle three games back. Boston and Seattle split a four-game series at Fenway Park in late April.
The Mariners pulled within a game of a playoff spot Friday before losing two straight to lowly Arizona, including 5-4 Sunday afternoon despite home runs by Mitch Haniger, Dylan Moore and Jarred Kelenic.
“Obviously, all these games are important, they’re fun, it’s kind of what baseball should be like in September, and I’m really glad we’re in this spot,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.
The Mariners have won a major-league-leading 30 one-run games, which has made up for their minus-57 run differential. They are the only AL team with a negative run differential and a winning record.
Servais said the wild-card race can only help his young team.
“Along the way, you’re gaining these experiences, you’re getting the big at-bats late in games with runners in scoring position,” Servais said. “Sometimes, you’re better at slowing it down — slowing your heartbeat down and working through an at-bat — than other times. But I do know from experience the more opportunities you get to go through that, the better you get at handling it.”
Servais also recently downplayed the run differential, saying the Mariners have a “fun differential.”
“I’ve never been in this type of spot before,” Crawford said. “It sure is fun.”
The Red Sox have remained in the race despite a COVID-19 outbreak that has lasted two weeks and has put a dozen players and coaches on the injured list.
Boston lost 2-1 to the host Chicago White Sox on Sunday, losing two of three games against the AL Central leaders. Each contest was decided by one run.
“We’re playing good baseball. The last three games, they have felt like the playoffs. The at-bats, the intensity, the moves,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “Obviously, we didn’t win the series, but we played well. We’ll be ready. We’ve got Eduardo (Rodriguez), Nate (Eovaldi), and we’ll go from there (in Seattle).”
The left-handed Rodriguez (11-8, 5.15 ERA) is scheduled to start the series opener against Mariners rookie right-hander Logan Gilbert (5-5, 5.10), who will face Boston for the first time.
Rodriguez is 4-3 with a 3.72 ERA in eight career starts against Seattle. He defeated the Mariners 5-3 on April 25 in Boston, going seven innings and allowing three runs on six hits, with no walks and eight strikeouts.
–Field Level Media
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