SURE, IT WAS A BAD WEEK FOR THE MARINERS BUT LOOK CLOSER

 Bob Dutton

Bob Dutton

   SEATTLE — Let’s not sugarcoat it. It’s been a bad week here in Marinerland with six losses in the last seven games.

   Sure, the competition was tough — the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees — but what really stings is much of the pain resulted from a suddenly combustible bullpen that failed to hold five-run leads in two different games.

   So, again, a bad week.

   Now, take a deep breath and take a step back.

   That bad week was just that: a bad week. Nothing more (or less).

   It didn’t kill the season or even seriously derail the Mariners’ bid to end their miserable postseason drought (which, yes, is the longest current drought in major North American pro sports at 16 years).

   Further perspective:

   It was three weeks ago when the Mariners, at 37-22, entered what figured to be the toughest stretch of their season: a 19-game stretch that included 15 games against the Houston Astros, Los Angels Angels, Red Sox and Yankees.

   Even after that bad week, the Mariners concluded that stretch at 10-9.

   Throw out a four-game series at Tampa Bay, where they went 3-1, if you want. The Mariners were still 7-8 against the Astros-Angels-Red Sox-Yankees gauntlet. Not great. Could have (should have) been better. But certainly no disaster.

   *****

   By the way, Tampa Bay just completed a three-game weekend sweep against the Yankees. The Rays are 36-32 since April 8 despite going 1-6 against the Mariners. It might be shortsighted to shrug off those victories over Tampa Bay.

   *****

   Here’s the big takeaway from the last three weeks: The Mariners, despite their recent slide, actually extended their lead over the Angels from five games to six games in the wild-card race.   

   Sure, it’s possible that the Mariners could dethrone Houston in the American League West Division. Unlikely but, well, possible. (They enter the week trailing the Astros by 4 1/2 games in the division race.)

   More likely, though, the Mariners’ path to their first postseason berth since 2001 hinges on their ability to gain one of the AL’s two wild-card berths, which probably means beating out the Angels.

   *****

   As of Monday morning, here are the standings for the final wild-card berth:

   Mariners 47-31

   Los Angeles Angels 41-37 (6 games behind)

   Oakland Athletics 40-38 (7 games behind)

   Tampa Bay Rays 37-40 (9 1/2 games behind)

   Every other club is 10 or more games behind.

   Yes, the season still hasn’t reached its midpoint. (That happens this week.) But a glance at the wild-card standings, as early as it is, should help ease the teeth-gnashing hereabouts at what happened over the last week.  

   *****

   Bottom line: The Mariners, even coming off a bad week — a bad week — are well-positioned in the wild-card race as they exit the toughest portion of their schedule. 

   Now we’ll see if they can maintain that advantage.   

   For while the schedule seemingly softens at this point, with the next seven games against Baltimore and Kansas City, the Mariners have a pair of three-game series against the Angels prior to the break.

   Keeping the Angels at arm’s length is priority one. Viewed from that perspective, the last three weeks were a plus.