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Ten games to eternity
For the Mariners, the playoffs start tonight—and, if navigated right, this road stretches well beyond these three crucial series.
This time of year, if you’re playing for something—you’re playing for it all.
I sit here, at 12:47am in a hotel room on Crete and, perhaps, I should’ve thought more about getting married on a date that often lands on top of playoff race baseball. Then again, I swam in the Aegean Sea today and will again tomorrow. And the day after. So it goes.
Before that, though, I’ll be up at 3am local time to watch game one of the biggest series of the year. I’ll try to do it again tomorrow, and the day after—and, I think for the homestand opener vs. Houston, I’ll be in the air for the most of it on the third leg of a travel day that takes me from Crete to Frankfurt to San Francisco to home.
Oh it will be nice to be home. For me and for the boys.
But first, the Mariners have three games to play inside of a Sam’s Club warehouse.
We’ve known for a long time these games would mean a lot. Since the schedule was released, since our eyes rolled over those @s and vs. and three-letter abbreviations, one after another, this set of ten had our attention more than the rest.
Did we think they’d be for the division? Perhaps way back when the schedule was released in August of 2022, as the Mariners surged to the Postseason. Maybe not so much in April or May of 2023, but definitely in August, a full year after it was unveiled what would be the final sprint to October, if there were to be an October.
These ten games are about more than an appearance, about sauntering onto the dance floor and hoping someone will have us.
Flags fly forever, as they say—and the Mariners have a chance to hang a couple.
There’s a few things I particularly love about how this lines up, along with many I don’t. Like how, in my mid-30s, a bout of intense stress could actually give me a heart attack.
I was particularly parched getting off the ferry from Santorini today, went to slam a Coke Light and thought for four three I might die.
Anyway, these games.
It would be really nice if all the remaining ten contests were against the Oakland Athletics. Or like seven vs. Oakland and maybe a three-gamer against, I don’t know, the White Sox?
But there’s something poetic, something classical in turning the scoreboard watching down a skosh. It’s our guys vs. theirs. It’s everything they did vs. everything the M’s did.
It’s so big, so all-encompassing, and there’s like a 95 percent chance multiple games will be decided by guys, six months ago, you didn’t know would be on either team.
Narratives will shine. And they will crash.
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For example, when the Rangers landed Marcus Semien now two offseasons ago—the dream player to push the M’s over the top, acquired on a contract a tad too rich—they not only added one of baseball’s best at the keystone spot, they also kept him from a division rival.
Is Semien worth worth $175 million over seven years? I’m not gonna opine on that now. But if you were to put a price on taking him from the Rangers and putting him on the Mariners for these seven games, it’d be worth a hell of a lot more than the $1.1 million he’ll earn playing in ‘em.
Can the Mariners indeed thread the needle with their young pitching staff? Do Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo have enough left in their tired arms to will the Mariners towards a division title? We’re going to find out real soon. Four starts, maybe a little more than 20 total innings left—that’s it.
Finally, can the Mariners seize upon the one enormous advantage they have on the Astros and Rangers over these ten final games?
They have seven at home. Those guys have six and seven on the road.
The M’s have seven games in front of 40,000 people who have been waiting for a homestand like this for most of their lives. For many in this fan base, they’ve been waiting for all of it.
Think about that finish line. Think about Andres Muñoz taking the ball for the the ninth, tens of thousands of fans in their third hour of standing, about a swinging strike as iconic as Big Dumper’s dinger, think about
2023 American League West Division Champions
on the gigantic screen, on all the ribbon boards, on the out-of-town scoreboard that once shone black and gold behind Mac and Cammy and Lou and the American flag.
The kick, as I wrote last time out—and, thanks for y’all’s patience during this vacation—is about survival. It’s about emotion. It’s about emptying everything you have left and then a little bit more.
But that isn’t really the finish line.
Because if the Mariners can hit that mark, that flagged funnel now under half a track lap away in the 5K that is this season, they can see another one much more clearly.
If you win a division, you’re so much closer to winning it all. You’re two series wins from playing for everything, not three. Just seven wins away, not nine. More home games, rotation lined up, bullpen ready.
The Mariners—the Seattle Mariners—wouldn’t be the underdogs anymore.
They could do it.
They can do it.
The biggest ten regular season games we’ve ever seen start tonight. They start now in 65 minutes.
Let’s have some fun.