Mariners realize urgency of remaining series

With narrow path to playoffs, Seattle ready to fight to the finish

Mariners realize urgency of remaining series

MINNEAPOLIS -- Ten games. One road trip. One homestand. And a chance.

That's what remains for the Mariners as they embark on their final trek of the season, with a three-game series against the Twins starting Friday, then three games at Houston and four final Safeco Field appearances against the A's.

"We're keeping it close," center fielder Leonys Martin said after Seattle squeaked out a 2-1 win in 12 innings over Toronto on Wednesday. "We go to the road now, and we play good on the road. We just have to keep fighting and keep believing. We've got a chance. All September has been like the playoffs for us. We'll just keep playing and believing. That's the only way we're going to make it."

Cano's walk-off sacrifice fly

The Mariners' playoff odds were listed at 14 percent by FanGraphs heading into Thursday's off-day, which was better than their 2 percent on Sept. 2, when they were 70-68. Despite a difficult 2-4 homestand against Houston and Toronto, Seattle has won 10 of its past 14 to elevate its record to 80-72.

Yes, the games are dwindling. And the Mariners will have to leapfrog three teams -- the Orioles, Tigers and Astros -- to gain the American League's second Wild Card berth. But the path is at least possible, given they'll face two non-contenders in the Twins and A's and have a chance to make up ground head-to-head against Houston, which is one game ahead.

Wild Card standings

"We're not dead," manager Scott Servais said. "We need help. And we need to play good ball in Minnesota. That's a team I don't take lightly. They handed us our lunch here earlier in the year. They've got a lot of young players that play loose and free, and that's how we've got to play."

Indeed, the Twins' three-game sweep in Seattle in May looms as one of the main reasons the Mariners aren't in better position at the moment. Servais will roll out his three least-experienced starters -- James Paxton, Ariel Miranda and Taijuan Walker -- in this series.

Walker's fantastic outing

Those three have performed well in September, a combined 6-4 with a 3.61 ERA, and Servais feels his pitching is in relatively good hands. He's more concerned about an offense that went quiet the past week, totaling just 16 runs over its past seven games.

"The quality of at-bats this homestand was not good," Servais said. "We didn't have a good offensive homestand. We need to get after it on the road trip. We've got to score more runs than we're scoring or our season will be over here after about 10 games."

Servais acknowledges the "math isn't good" when figuring out the Mariners' playoff hopes, but this is a streaky club that has bounced back before. And if it can get on a big run this road trip, the final four games against the A's -- whom the Mariners swept in Oakland on their last trip -- could be interesting indeed.

"It's baseball. Anything can happen," Robinson Cano said. "We can win the next eight to 10 games. You never know. We just have to keep fighting. At the end of the season, the other teams are going to have to face their rivals and we have to face Houston. We just have to be ready and keep winning. That's all you can do, bottom line."

The Orioles, who currently hold the second AL Wild Card spot, will close out their final week on the road against the Blue Jays and Yankees. The Tigers have seven games against the Royals and the AL Central-leading Indians. The Astros would appear to have the easiest road, with seven remaining games against the Angels. So Seattle's three-game set in Houston looms large.

But first comes three against the Twins. And the Mariners know what needs to be done.

"We still have a chance," Felix Hernandez said. "We just have to continue to play the way we did [in Wednesday's win] and see what happens."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.