With just over a week left in the 2023 regular season, most of the division races around MLB have already been decided. The AL West, however, has very much not — in fact, it’s shaping up to be quite possibly the tightest division race in the history of divisions:
LOOK AT THE TOP OF THE AL WEST— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) September 20, 2023
This is the 1st time that 3 teams in the same division were all within half a game or fewer of first place with all having 10 games or fewer left to play, since divisions began (1969)
h/t @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/b7PqtEk63R
The Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers were all off on Thursday. As they all get set to kick off their weekend series on Friday, here’s where things stand: Houston, thanks to its wild walk-off win over the Orioles on Wednesday, leads by a half-game at 85-68, while both the Mariners and Rangers both sit at 84-68 after series victories earlier this week. The race almost literally could not be tighter — but which team is going to come out on top when the dust settles? Who should be considered the favorite with just 10 games to play? We’ll be taking a look at all three teams’ paths to an AL West crown, looking here at the Mariners.
How Seattle Mariners can win the AL West
The Mariners currently have the second-best odds to win the West, with Fangraphs’ playoff odds giving them 30% — compared to 50.9% for Houston and 19.1% for Texas. Of course, that could all change very quickly this weekend, as Seattle travels to Arlington for a huge three-game set against the Rangers. Texas is 5-1 this season against Seattle, and if either team takes two of three (much less sweep) they put themselves in great position heading into the season’s final week.
If there’s any argument against Seattle winning the division — beyond the fact that they’re a disappointing 8-11 so far in September — it’s the schedule: While the Astros and Rangers get a reprieve from the West gauntlet in the form of series against the Royals and Angels, respectively, the Mariners close with seven against Texas and three against Houston. That’s a lot to ask, especially with no days off and a rotation that’s already taking on water and relying on two rookies (Bryan Woo and Bryce Miller) pushing new career highs in innings pitched. That gap could be the difference, especially if Houston and Texas manage to pick up sweeps.
AL West prediction
In the end, I do think the Astros get it done. Houston has one series remaining with Seattle, but outside of that gets two eminently beatable teams in the Royals and Diamondbacks. The fact that the Rangers and Mariners will play each other a whopping seven times may come back to bite both of them; maybe one of them gets hot and separates, but it seems more likely that they spend those series beating each other up. (And if one team does take charge, Seattle’s rotation advantage suggests that it’ll probably be them.) The Mariners haven’t inspired a ton of confidence lately, though, and this 10 games in 10 days stretch is asking a lot of a team that doesn’t have a ton of depth — George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, Luis Castillo and Julio Rodriguez can only do so much.