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Don't look now, but if the playoffs were to start today, the Seattle Mariners would be in them. With the Mariners' 8-1 victory over the Tigers on Sunday, they have moved past Detroit in the standings, and now have a half game lead for the second wildcard spot in the American League.
The Mariners (67-56) took advantage of not having to face the Tigers' aces Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander over the weekend, as they were able to take two of three games in the series. The Tigers' newly acquired David Price got the only win for the Tigers when he only allowed one run in eight innings of work on Saturday.
In what has become the best division in MLB, the Mariners are holding their own with the likes of the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels. The Mariners have been able to stay a few games above .500 for much of the season, but have gone 11-4 during the month of August to put themselves firmly in the playoff picture.
The massive contract that the team gave Robinson Cano during the off-season is starting to look like a smart move, as the second basemen has a .332 batting average, second best in the AL. As the Associated Press has pointed out, the Mariners will next play the Phillies, who are in last place in the lowly NL East, so they should be able to keep up their winning ways.
In fact, the Mariners' next nine games are all against teams who are at least 11 games below .500, so if they are going to create some distance between themselves and the other teams vying for a wildcard spot, now is the time. The Mariners have not made the playoffs since 2001, when they won 116 games during the regular season, an American League record. So the Seattle faithful will be locked in to see their team play meaningful baseball in September for the first time in more than a decade.
The News Tribune has pointed out the fact that the Mariners have managed to have success with a relatively young and unheralded group of core players. If Felix Hernandez can continue to pitch like a Cy Young candidate, and Cano continues to swing the bat well, there is no reason why the AL West can't send three teams to the playoffs. Though, it will be hard to keep the Tigers down, who have the best starting rotation in baseball.
Image courtesy of Jennifer Graylock/INFphoto.com