TACOMA, WA. — It’s a stretch to say the Mariners saved their season Wednesday by avoiding a three-game sweep at Oakland with a 2-0 victory in 12 innings…but not too much of a stretch.
The victory resulted in a two-game swing in the American League wild-card standings that, entering Thursday, left the Mariners trailing the Athletics by 2 1/2 games (instead of 4 1/2) with 40 games to go (41 for Oakland).
That two-game swing isn’t insignificant but, let’s face it, the Mariners’ postseason prospects still aren’t great. (Actually, they’re probably worse than you think.) Just check three major computer-projection models.
BaseballProspectus.com rates the Mariners as having a 22.3-percent chance of ending their 16-year postseason drought. Fangraphs.com is more optimistic at 31 percent, but FiveThirtyEight.com has it at just 20 percent.
Combined, that’s roughly a 24.4-percent chance.
Further, those three projection models each rate Boston, Houston, Cleveland and New York as having a 98-percent chance (or higher) of gaining one of the AL’s five postseason berths.
If so, that leaves the final spot as a battle between the Mariners and Athletics.
FiveThirtyEight rates Oakland’s chances at 82 percent, while Baseball Prospectus has it at 79.2, and Fangraphs at 69.6. Those numbers, undoubtedly, would have been higher had the Athletics completed their sweep.
By the way: All three computer models say none of the AL’s other nine clubs have even a 1-percent chance of reaching postseason. They all agree that it’s six clubs competing for five spots.
Let’s say the computer models are correct; that this is a two-team race for the final spot. If things change — if, say, the recent slides by Houston and New York turn into extended slumps — we can revisit everything at a later date.
For our purposes, let’s also forget that Oakland is 38-13 since June 15, or that the Mariners (70-52) are 25-27 in the same span. Because if those trends continue, the race is over.
Within those parameters, it helps, certainly, that the Mariners still have seven more games against the Athletics: A four-game series from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 at Oakland, and a three-game series from Sept. 24-26 at Safeco Field.
The Mariners can therefore erase that 2 1/2-game deficit simply (simply?) by going 5-2 in those head-to-head games. (They currently hold a 7-5 edge in the season series.)
A more in-depth look at the schedule offers the Mariners a slight edge.
When the head-to-head games are eliminated, the Mariners’ other opponents average a .494 winning percentage, while the Athletics’ opponents average a .497 winning percentage.
Every little bit helps.