Top AL teams setting bar high so far in postseason chase

The Seattle Mariners haven’t made the postseason since 2001. This year, they’ve looked like contenders, and at the moment, they’re on pace to win 91 games.

Yet if the season ended now, they wouldn’t even receive a wild card.

The bar may end up being set awfully high for entry into the American League postseason this year – if you’re in the AL East or West, at least. The Red Sox, Yankees, Astros and Angels all have winning percentages of at least .600, with Boston and New York up in the stratosphere at .700. If the Mariners are going to end their postseason drought, they’ll either have to outlast the Astros and Angels for the division, or win enough games for a wild card. Both routes appear challenging.

”We knew when we left spring training, it was going to be a very competitive division,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. ”Up and down the division, the fact that you play those teams so much – I’ve said all along, the teams that’ll be standing at the end, at the top or near the top, are the ones that can stay the healthiest.”

Not long after Servais said that Sunday, the Mariners lost second baseman Robinson Cano to a fractured hand .

Last year, Minnesota took the second wild card in the AL with 85 wins. In 2016, both wild cards won 89. The 2015 Astros went 86-76, and that was good enough for a wild card.

A record like that might be enough to win the AL Central this year – although Cleveland (20-19) has plenty of time to pull away – but the other two divisions look stronger. A sizeable gap has opened between the top of the league and the bottom. While the Red Sox and Yankees have been on a tear, the White Sox (10-27), Orioles (13-28) and Royals (13-27) have fallen way, way behind.

At this early point in the season, it’s not a huge surprise to see some teams occupying the extremes, but two teams playing .700 baseball is unusual.

Of course, if Seattle wants a reason for optimism, it can look back to the 2002 season. On the morning of May 14, the top two teams in the AL were Boston at 25-9 and … the Mariners at 26-11. Both those teams came back to the pack and missed the postseason. If there had been a second wild card that year, they’d have finished tied for it at 93-69.

As daunting as the American League terrain may seem at the moment, there’s still a long way to go.

Some other developments from around the majors:

HANGING IN

Cleveland’s underwhelming start has allowed the Twins a bit of a mulligan on their own 17-19 record. Minnesota is just 1 games out of first place. The Twins rank in the bottom half of the AL in batting average, OPS and home runs. After improving from 59 wins to 85 last year, Minnesota got off to a poor start in 2018 but has won seven of its last nine.

HIGHLIGHT

It doesn’t get much better than a defensive gem to preserve a no-hitter. Seattle’s Kyle Seager made a diving stop at third base on Kevin Pillar’s shot down the line, then he popped up quickly and threw Pillar out at first in the seventh inning Tuesday night at Toronto. James Paxton was able to finish the no-hitter .

LINE OF THE WEEK

Believe it or not, it’s not Paxton’s no-hitter. Instead, the honor goes to Houston’s George Springer, who went 6 for 6 with a homer in a 16-2 win over Oakland on Monday night.

More AP baseball: Hometeaminsider.com

Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

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