Mariners in playoff chase

Team plans to play young players to get experience

By Ryan Divish | The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — The playoff push has begun for the Mariners.

Playoffs?

You mean the Major League Baseball playoffs?

For the Seattle Mariners?

Isn’t this supposed to be a developmental year?

Well, 2020 has proved to be anything but normal or predictable in sports or life. And following that trend of unexpected or unthinkable developments, the Mariners have a postseason pulse that’s something stronger than faint in a season where they planned to play young players to get experience, and a large portion of fans wanted them to lose as many games as possible for the chance to take Vanderbilt’s stud pitcher Kumal Rocker with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft.

Following four days of dominance over the cratering Texas Rangers, including Monday’s 8-4 drubbing at T-Mobile Park, which completed a four-game sweep and extended their season-high win streak to six games, the Mariners have forced themselves into a final sprint for a spot in the expanded playoffs of this odd 2020 season.

Thanks to a two-week stretch where they’ve played their best baseball of this truncated season, winning 11 of 14 games, the Mariners, 19-22 entering Tuesday’s games, left Seattle for a five-game road trip just two games behind the second-place Houston Astros, who were shut out in Oakland to fall to 21-20.

While in normal seasons, challenging for second in their division with a record hovering near .500 wouldn’t mean much, the expanded playoff plan of 16 teams gives Seattle hope. Eight teams from the American League will qualify for the postseason — the top two teams from each division will get spots along with two wild-card teams with the best remaining records.

The Mariners are also in the mix for that last wild-card spot, sitting just two games behind the Yankees (21-20), who have lost 14 of their last 18 games.

It’s a topic M’s manager Scott Servais doesn’t want in his players’ conversations or minds.

“No, we’re just worried about getting better every day,” Servais said in a postgame video conference. “I said it the other day, you’ve got to get to .500 and we’re not there yet. We’re just learning about ourselves every day out there — good things, bad things, some things in the middle. We’re going on the road and playing two teams we know very little about. We haven’t seen the Giants at all. We don’t know much about the Diamondbacks. This will be a big, big challenge for us.”

Realistically having those three games postponed with the A’s to start the homestand allowed the Mariners to push into position. And their stay in the race may be brief. But with how well they’ve played and how poorly the beat-up Astros have played, they are in it for the moment.

“We are playing really well,” Servais said. “This group is not afraid of anything. We just come to the ballpark with one single goal in mind and how do we get better today. As long as we stay there we’ll be just fine.”

And yet …

“You look up at the standings and we’re close to it with the expanded playoffs,” Dylan Moore said in a postgame video conference. “It would be great to get in there and get all of these young guys, and myself included, some playoff experience. That’d be awesome. That’s what our goal is for the next couple years anyway.”

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