The Seattle Mariners entered their 162nd game on Oct. 3 needing two things to happen. If the Mariners beat the Los Angeles Angels and either the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees lost, the Mariners were set to play a tiebreaker to enter the MLB playoffs for the first time since 2001. Being the longest time since making the playoffs across the four major American sports, this competition was such a big deal that it sparked support from people with no horse in the race. The Seattle crowd was living proof, drawing over 40,000 people per game in the final series.
It started off well. The Red Sox were down 5-2 and the Yankees were scoreless into the final inning of their game. All the Mariners had to do was win, which proved difficult. Prospective American League Most Valuable Player Shohei Ohtani homered in the first at-bat of the game off Tyler Anderson, giving the Angels a 1-0 lead. Anderson would have one of his worst starts as a Mariner, allowing four runs before being pulled in the second inning.
At the end of the fifth, the Angels led 7-2. Facing a 7-3 deficit in the ninth inning, the news broke. The Yankees had beat the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0, and the Red Sox had come back to beat the Washington Nationals 7-5. This meant the Mariners were out of playoff contention. Manager Scott Servais stopped the game to give Kyle Seager, the longest-tenured Mariner of 11 years, a moment to take in possibly the final Seattle crowd he ever sees. After a few minutes, the Mariners unceremoniously went down in the ninth and they would lose 7-3.
The Mariners’ season ended not with a bang but with a whimper. However, this cannot detract from what is easily one of the best stories in baseball. Going back to April, nobody expected anything from the Mariners. They were entering the final stages of a rebuild and were hoping to develop rookies like Jarred Kelenic, Taylor Trammell and Logan Gilbert while continuing progress on other young stars like Kyle Lewis and Justus Sheffield. They had no expectations: ESPN gave them 70 wins and Sports Illustrated gave them 69. Every analyst slotted them in at fourth in the division. The Mariners finished at second, one game out of a playoff spot, with 90 total wins.
What went so well for them? Why should Mariner fans be so hopeful in the midst of another year without a postseason? It might be easier to list the reasons why they shouldn’t. Up and down the lineup are players that are likely to return next year:
- First baseman Ty France
- Second baseman Abraham Toro
- Shortstop J.P. Crawford
- Outfielder Mitch Haniger
All of them put together career seasons. Kelenic had a scorching September that shone hope on what was a rocky rookie year. It’s worth noting that the Mariners might have a similar amount of talent in players who couldn’t make the team for one reason or another. Lewis and Evan White missed extended time with injury. Julio Rodriguez has the potential to be the literal best player in baseball. Going deeper, Noelvi Marte continues to quietly build a resume that will get him to the Major Leagues in 2023.
The pitching is equally promising. Marco Gonzales isn’t the star he was in 2020 but had a rock-solid season. Chris Flexen returned from Korea and immediately became the best Mariner pitcher. Gilbert had an average rookie season but with room to grow. Anderson, despite taking the loss on the final day, was nothing short of exceptional for the Mariners. The entire bullpen was stellar. Paul Sewald, Casey Sadler, Yohan Ramirez, Diego Castillo, Drew Steckenrider. All of these were exceptional players, and none of these are pending free agents this year.
The sun sets on another Mariner season, but it will rise again. The days, weeks, months will tick by one at a time and before you know it, spring will arrive. With it, they will return, stronger than before and ready to take the MLB by storm. Look forward to it. Thank you for an incredible year, Seattle.