The out-of-town scoreboard watching is in full swing in Seattle.
The magic number is now three — and could drop even lower Thursday.
For the first time since 2001, the Mariners, the bearers of the longest active postseason drought in major North American sports, appear to be headed to the playoffs.
Seattle could clinch one of three American League wild card spots as early as Friday.
The only team still within reach of the Mariners, currently in third in the wild-card race, and the two teams ahead of them in Toronto and Tampa Bay, is Baltimore.
The Orioles enter Thursday 4 1/2 games back of Seattle in the standings, and the Mariners hold any tiebreaker, having finished 4-2 against Baltimore in the head-to-head series this summer.
But, entering Thursday’s games, any combination of Mariners wins and Orioles losses adding up to three will secure Seattle’s first trip to the postseason in more than two decades. Here are the scenarios for Friday:
▪ Should the Mariners win Thursday and Friday, and the Orioles lose either Thursday or Friday, they will be on their way.
▪ Should the Orioles lose Thursday afternoon in Boston, and the Mariners win Thursday evening, the Mariners could clinch before their Friday evening game wraps up with another Baltimore loss Friday in New York.
▪ Should the Orioles split on Thursday and Friday, the Mariners would need to win both games the next two days to ensure they move ahead in October.
Of course, other scenarios could delay the possibility of Seattle clinching to later.
Seattle’s lead over Baltimore for the league’s final wild-card allocation provides a near-certain cushion, though the Mariners haven’t clinched yet.
For the Mariners to collapse out of contention, Baltimore needs to finish the season at least 5-2 — and that’s only if Seattle loses all eight games left on the schedule.
The chances of that happening? Less than a tenth of a percent, says Baseball Reference.
So, a postseason spot isn’t guaranteed yet, but likely by the time the regular season ends, and perhaps even this weekend.
If the Mariners do clinch, it will be in front of their home crowd at T-Mobile Park. They play their final eight games in Seattle.
The club wraps up a three-game series with the Rangers on Thursday night, then hosts the A’s for three games and finally the Tigers for four next week, including a Tuesday doubleheader. The final game of the regular season is Wednesday afternoon.
Who the Mariners would play in a three-game wild-card series should they secure a spot in the postseason would be decided at some point during the next week.
Entering Thursday’s games, Seattle currently holds the third AL wild-card spot, which would give the club the league’s No. 6 seed entering the playoffs if the standings remained the same.
Seattle enters Thursday two games behind Toronto (currently in the top AL wild-card spot and the league’s No. 4 seed) and 1/2 game back of Tampa Bay (currently in the second AL wild-card spot and the league’s No. 5 seed).
The Blue Jays have an off day Thursday, and host a three-game series against Boston beginning Friday. They then travel to Baltimore for their final three regular season games.
The Rays play their final seven games on the road. They are set to wrap up a series against the AL Central winners in Cleveland on Thursday afternoon, before playing three at AL West champion Houston and three more in Boston next week.
The Orioles wrap up their series with the Red Sox on Thursday afternoon, then head to New York for three games against the Yankees, and end the regular season at home with the three-game series against the Blue Jays.
How the AL postseason field sets up could still certainly change by next week.
All three division winners — Houston in the AL West, Cleveland in the AL Central and New York in the AL East — have already clinched.
The Astros enter Thursday as the No. 1 seed in the AL, up 5 1/2 games on the Yankees, who currently have the No. 2 seed. The Guardians will be the No. 3 seed.
The No. 6 seed travels to play Cleveland. The No. 5 seed travels to play the No. 4 seed.
The winners of those series will move on to play either the Astros or Yankees.
AL WILD CARD SCOREBOARD
THURSDAY (Sept. 29)
Red Sox 5, Orioles 3, Final
Guardians 2, Rays 1, Final
Mariners 10, Rangers 9, Final (11 innings)