I am looking at the Mariners schedule right now, and thinking: Their wild-card aspirations aren’t wild. A playoff berth is doable.
Such a forecast violates the bromide of “Take One Game At A Time,” which in the world according to Russell Wilson is the First Commandment of Life, or maybe the second. (The Seahawks quarterback has set forth a lot of commandments, none easily obeyed.)
But I can’t resist. The Mariners have 17 games remaining, and they’ll be at Safeco Field for 10 of them. Six of those 10 home games are against Houston and Toronto, fellow contenders in the wild card race. If the Mariners take care of business in Seattle, they won’t find themselves desperate for help on the final weekend.
Here is what’s to really like about the schedule: Of the 17 games awaiting the Mariners, only three will be on the road versus a quality opponent (at Houston, Sept. 26-28).
Otherwise, the ride is quite smoother than the late-September obstacle course that doomed Lloyd McClendon’s team two years ago, when it was sent on a road trip that began with four games against the Angels and ended with four games against the Blue Jays, with three games at Houston in between.
The steep uphill climb — 11 games, three different time-zone adjustments — was made steeper by McClendon’s bemoaning the rigorous itinerary. The Mariners lost eight of the 11, denying them the play-in contest that would’ve set up a play-in contest.
September baseball is peculiar. Major league roster limits of 25 players are expanded to 40, which gives teams eliminated from contention the opportunity to provide an audition for farm-system prospects.
It also poses a conundrum for such managers as Chip Hale, whose Arizona Diamondbacks are on pace to lose 95 games: What’s more important? Allowing kids in the organization to gain some experience, or occupying the role of legitimate opponent in a playoff race?
“You want to give the teams that are in the best you have,” Hale said the other day.
Hale’s high-road road approach toward late-season baseball is in contrast to September’s quirky history.
Quickest major league game of all time? That would be the Giants’ 6-1 victory over the Phillies on Sept. 28, 1919. It was over in 51 minutes, just a bit longer than a typical replay review of the second base forceout on a double play in 2016.
It was on Sept. 27, 1963, when Houston — then an NL team known as the Colt 45s — posted an all-rookie lineup that included future Tacoma Parks and Recreation director Aaron Pointer. The Colts’ starting pitcher, Jay Dahl, was 17 years old.
Bert Campaneris pitched the eighth inning of a September 8, 1965, game for the Athletics, a notable achievement because he would go on to catch in the ninth inning, after having played seven other defensive positions.
The Twins’ Cesar Tovar duplicated the feat on Sept. 22, 1968, except he got the hard part out of the way early. A middle infielder, Tovar started on the mound — he struck out Reggie Jackson — before suiting up as a catcher in the second inning. From there he played the infield counter-clockwise, and then the outfield, left to right.
September is when baseball’s losers make the turn into Sillyville. On Sept. 23, 1949, Cleveland owner Bill Veeck arranged a pregame ceremony burying the Indians’ 1948 World Series championship. Veeck wore a top hat, guiding a horse-drawn procession to a grave site behind the center-field fence.
Manager Lou Boudreau and his coaches served as grim pallbearers of the casket — this actually happened, trust me — delivered to a cardboard tombstone that read “1948 champs.”
September is baseball’s space oddity. During afternoon games, the orange sun casts long shadows, announcing the transformation from those crazy, hazy days of summer to back-to-school reality.
Night games for out-of-contention teams are sparsely attended. After the seventh-inning stretch, urgency is all about the next foul ball and the beer vendor’s last call.
Into this mix are the Mariners, whose final road trip will begin with three games against a last-place Minnesota Twins club anxious for winter in Minnesota.
I know, I’m getting ahead of things. I’m supposed to take September one day at a time.
But the schedule for the Mariners sets up nicely: Six meaningful games at Safeco Field, followed by three winnable games on the road. By October, the whole world can be in their hands, and it won’t require a miracle.