For the Seattle Mariners and their fans, it has been 21 years since their last postseason appearance, the longest such stretch in all Major League Baseball. How long ago was that? Well, consider that Ichiro Suzuki was their rookie starting right fielder.

Just over 2,800 miles to the east, the Philadelphia Phillies have suffered through a full decade without the excitement of postseason baseball. That is the longest such current streak in the National League.

At least fans of the Fightin’ Phils had a great run for a decade just before that, highlighted by a World Series championship in 2008. The Mariners have never even competed in the Fall Classic in the 45 previous seasons of the franchise’ history.

But now, with three weeks to go in the 2022 regular season, both clubs appear poised to capture a Wildcard berth in their respective leagues and put an end to their postseason droughts.

The Mariners at 78-61 control the third of three AL Wildcard spots, leading their nearest pursuers, the surprising Baltimore Orioles by five games with 23 left to play.

Meanwhile, the Phillies at 77-62 control the second of three NL Wildcard spots. Philly leads their only real challengers, the Milwaukee Brewers by four games in the loss column.

55-year-old Scott Servais, who earned his 500th big-league victory just last month, has skippered the Mariners for the last seven seasons. The club has accumulated a record of 516-493 during his tenure. They won 90 games a year ago but fell two shy of the playoffs thanks to a slow start that left them four below the .500 mark as late as mid-June.

If you look at where our organization has come,” Servais said per Daniel Kramer of MLB.com after that 500th win, “from a team we inherited to trading off a lot of those guys, the rebuild, starting over with young players and seeing where we’re at today, it’s a credit to everybody that has been involved with this organization, but no more than Jerry (club president Dipoto) and what Justin (GM Hollander) do on an everyday basis and our ownership group. They gave me a chance.”

21-year-old center fielder Julio Rodriguez leads the Seattle offensive attack. The leader for AL Rookie of the Year honors is hitting .273 with 23 home runs, 69 RBI, and 24 stolen bases (all stats here as of Sunday 9/11.) First baseman Ty France (18 HR/71 RBI) and third baseman Eugenio Suarez (28 HR/80 RBI) have also helped set the pace.

But the bigger story in Seattle is perhaps the pitching staff. The M’s rotation has been led by hard throwing 30-year-old southpaw Robbie Ray, who signed as a free agent this past off-season. 25-year-old second-year righty Logan Gilbert and 24-year-old rookie George Kirby have also been strong, while 32-year-old Paul Sewald has emerged as a dependable closer.

In Philadelphia, the Phillies were struggling along at 22-29 when they fired manager Joe Girardi during on off-day on June 2. He was replaced on an interim basis by bench coach Rob Thomson, and the turnaround under the baseball lifer has been nothing short of spectacular. The Phils have gone 55-33 under the 59-year-old Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and did much of that without reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper, who missed two months with a broken hand.

Thoms is great. He’s been around a long time,” said Phillies star catcher J.T. Realmuto per Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer just over a week ago. “We’ve all had a lot of respect for him since the day he stepped foot in this clubhouse. He’s just a really easy guy to play for.”

Realmuto turned his own season around at about the time the club began to take off. Since just prior to the MLB All-Star break, the game’s best all-around backstop is slashing .338/.405/.630 with nine homers and 38 RBI over 43 games.

Free agent signee Kyle Schwarber (37 HR/79 RBI) and veteran first baseman Rhys Hoskins (27 HR/67 RBI) also helped keep the team afloat while Harper was out. Rookie infielder Bryson Stott has contributed (9 HR/41 RBI) over 104 games while providing stellar defense playing significant innings at both second base and shortstop.

On the mound, the Phillies have been hurt of late by the loss of ace Zack Wheeler. Battling forearm tendinitis, the right-hander hopes to return soon after this week’s road trip to Miami and Atlanta. Aaron Nola has provided 16 Quality Starts, and his 200 strikeouts are third in the National League.

The Phillies bugaboo of late has been poor relief pitching. Bullpen failures directly caused the team to miss out on a postseason berth in each of the last two seasons. The pen had been a major piece of this summer’s turnaround story but has once again become unreliable. It is hoped that Seranthony Dominguez, activated yesterday from the Injured List, will settle the group.

Should either the Mariners or Phillies play poorly over these final three weeks and end up once again missing postseason play it will be considered a major collapse. In Thomson’s case, it might even cost him a shot at having that “interim” title erased and an opportunity to return next season.

However, both teams have looked strong over the last few months. The odds are in their favor. Fangraphs has the M’s at 99.4% to reach the postseason and the Phils at 90% into play on Sunday. Both clubs have now positioned themselves for a shot at October glory, where either could very well prove a tough out for whomever ends up as their postseason opponents.

MORE OF MY 2022 BASEBALL PIECES

4 thoughts on “Mariners, Phillies push to end long postseason droughts

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