Mariners Soar to the Top of the AL West

The Mariners were one of baseball’s best stories during the 2022 season. After narrowly missing the postseason in ‘21, they were finally able to break their 21-year postseason drought. But while their time in the playoffs was short-lived after being knocked out by the eventual World Series champion Astros, it appeared the Mariners had finally broken through to being one of baseball’s best teams.

But something seemed off coming into this season. The fun, young and hungry team who captivated baseball with their electric playing style and charisma wasn’t there. In fact, they looked like a shell of that team. Throughout the first half, the Mariners appeared to be going through the motions, uninterested in building off their momentum.

What made matters worse was that the roster wasn’t different. They kept the majority of that team and even strengthened the lineup by adding Teoscar Hernandez — yet they were still flat.

Seattle’s pitching thrived despite their offensive counterparts not coming through as they once did. With each passing day, thoughts of a return to the postseason seemed more and more remote. The team even moved its closer Paul Sewald at the trade deadline, possibly signaling the white flag had begun to wave.

But then something happened.

When the calendar flipped to August, the Mariners morphed into a super-team in a matter of weeks, rattling off one of the hottest stretches that we’ve seen in baseball all season. Seattle was 10 games out in the AL West standings one month ago. They have now chased down the Texas Rangers, who had been leading the division since May.

The Mariners, who went 21-6 in August, have been supported by their offense that has finally found its form. Superstar centerfielder Julio Rodriguez led the charge during Seattle’s historic month slashing .429/.474/.724 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases, showing everyone why he’s one of the game’s most dynamic players and working his way into the AL MVP conversation.

Hernandez also had a monster month with a 1.050 OPS in August. In fact, six players finished the month of August with an .800 OPS or better, including Rodriguez, Hernandez, JP Crawford, Cal Raleigh, Ty France and Eugenio Suarez.

Now that their red-hot month has come to a close, Seattle’s eyes should be focused on the month of September. The Mariners have a favorable schedule with matchups against the Mets, A’s and Angels. On the more difficult side of the coin, they will still have series against the Reds, Rays and Dodgers, which will be no walk in the park.

But the most important matchups of the Mariners’ campaign will be in the final 10 games of the season. They have three games against the Rangers before three against the Astros and then four more against the Rangers, setting up for a classic showdown.

The biggest obstacle for the Mariners to reach the postseason might be the Astros. Houston has been strong, winning seven of their last 10 games and tying Seattle for the top spot in the AL West. They also have the easiest schedule of the three teams in the West, with matchups against the Yankees, Padres, A’s, Royals, D-Backs and Orioles.

It took a while to find out who the real Mariners were, but with a month to go, Seattle is finally playing up to their potential.