This could all be moot, from the Mariners’ perspective, by the end of play Saturday, but they rate an edge in nearly all of the tiebreaker scenarios regarding play-in games for the American League wild-card berths.
The Mariners entered Saturday trailing Toronto by one game in the race for the final wild-card spot. They also trailed Detroit by one-half game (because the Tigers have a possible makeup game looming Monday against Cleveland).
Baltimore held a one-game lead over Toronto in the race for the top wild-card spot with Detroit trailing by 1 1/2 games, and the Mariners trailing by two games.
Everything else is pretty much set. Texas had clinched homefield advantage all the way through postseason. Boston and Cleveland had clinched division titles. Every other club had been eliminated.
Those possible play-in scenarios:
***A two-way tie for the final spot would force a play-in game. The Mariners would be at home against Baltimore or Toronto but have to travel to Detroit.
***A three-way tie with Baltimore and Detroit would favor the Mariners, who would then have a choice of playing on the road against a Baltimore/Detroit winner or having to beat both teams at home.
***It’s much the same in a three-way tie with Baltimore and Toronto. Play the winner on the road or beat both at home.
***A three-way tie with Toronto and Detroit is a little trickier. The Mariners win the tiebreaker unless Detroit loses two games at Atlanta and beats Cleveland. (A three-way tie would then happen only if the Mariners split, and Toronto loses two.)
If all of that occurs, Detroit gets the choice of one home game or two road games. If the Tigers choose the one road game, the Mariners would play Toronto at home and, if they win, play the Tigers at home.
***A four-way tie would guarantee the Mariners a home game to gain one of the two wild-card spots.
The dates for any play-in games won’t be determined until it’s known whether Detroit has to play Monday in a makeup game against Cleveland.
A reminder: The Mariners put individual-game tickets on sale Friday for a possible AL Wild Card game and two possible AL Division Series games at Safeco Field.
Tickets can be purchased at at www.Mariners.com/tickets and by phone at 888-732-4487. If and when the dates become firm, they will also be available at Ticketmaster outlets, Mariners Team Stores and the Safeco Field box office.
Here are the remaining schedules for the four remaining wild-card contenders. Records do not include Saturday’s results:
Baltimore (88-72): Sunday at New York Yankees.
Toronto (87-73): Sunday at Boston.
Detroit (86-73): Sunday at Atlanta. Monday (if necessary) vs. Cleveland.
Mariners (86-74): Sunday vs. Oakland.
It was a jolt to outfielder Tyler O’Neill, after being selected a year ago as the Mariners’ co-minor-league player of the year, not to receive an invitation last spring to big-league camp.
But the club’s new administration, under general manager Jerry Dipoto, wanted to emphasize its "control the zone" philosophy and saw O’Neill’s all-or-nothing power approach as an issue best addressed in minor-league camp.
O’Neill, 21, responded with a vengeance this year in leading Double-A Jackson to the Southern League title. He made a strong bid to win the triple crown before finishing with 24 homers, 102 RBIs and .293 average.
On Saturday, O’Neill returned Saturday to Safeco Field as this year’s sole minor-league player of the year, although the award has since been renamed as the Ken Griffey Jr. Minor League Hitter of the Year.
"Obviously, the walking more was a big part of my development program," O’Neill said. "I think I attuned it my own way, taking more pitches that were off the plate to get me into a better count."
He still strikes out plenty — 150 times in 492 at-bats — but O’Neill’s plate discipline improved notably from his 2015 season at Hi-A Bakersfield. He drew more than twice as many walks; his on-base percentage jumped from .316 to .374 and his slugging percentage still topped .500.
All in line with the organization’s new philosophy.
"At Bakersfield," O’Neill said, "I had a lot of strikeouts and not a lot of walks. At Double-A, tougher pitching, tougher travel and the ball didn’t travel as well. I really had to play to the best of my ability…and I feel like I did that.
"I think it’s just all mental recognition. Just learning how pitchers pitch me. Just wait for a cookie and don’t miss it."
O’Neill departs in a few days for his second season in the Arizona Fall League, which is generally viewed as a finishing school for the game’s top prospects. He "definitely" feels better prepared this time.
"I was kind of a hit-or-miss guy at the end of 2015," he said. "Now, I’m more of an all-around player. I feel I’m a complete player now. I’m going to show everybody that I am."
And come next spring, O’Neill figures to be in big-league camp.
The Mariners presented five other minor-league awards prior to Saturday’s game against the Oakland Athletics:
***Right-hander Andrew Moore, 22, was chosen by club officials as the Jamie Moyer Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going a combined 12-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 28 starts at Jackson and Hi-A Bakersfield.
***Infielder Dalton Kelly, 22, is the Edgar Martinez PTPA (Productive Team Plate Appearance) Award recipient. He batted .284 with a .384 on-base percentage in 130 games at Lo-A Clinton.
***Infielder Zach Shank, 25, won the Alvin Davis Mr. Mariner Award, which recognizes leadership skills on and off the field. He batted a combined .290 with a .354 OBP in 120 games at Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma.
***Lefty reliever David Rollins, 26, won the Dan Wilson Minor League Community Service Award. He spent most of the season at Triple-A Tacoma, where he 5-0 with a 3.37 ERA in 37 games.
***Clinton manager Mitch Canham, 32. is the Dave Henderson Minor League Staff Member of the Year after leading the LumberKings to a franchise-record 86 victories.
GO NORI GO
So why did outfielder Nori Aoki, a Japanese native, settle on Chuck Berry’s rendition of rock-and-roll anthem "Johnny B. Goode" as his walk-up song?
"It just felt right," he said. "I thought it would be good for the team."
Aoki listened to this translated answer with an enigmatic smile while nodding his head, which suggested…who knows what?
Aoki entered Saturday with 24 hits in 65 at-bats (a .369 average with a .423 on-base percentage) in 19 games since his Sept. 6 recall from Triple-A Tacoma. He is batting .337 with a .386 OBP in 50 games since an earlier demotion.
"He’s really been awesome at the top of our lineup," manager Scott Servais said. "Kind of the spark plug of our offense. The whole month of September, he’s been outstanding."
The late surge pushed Aoki’s season average to .282 with a .347 OBP, which is in line with his hallmark consistency. In each of his four previous years since arriving from Japan, his average ranged from .285-.288, and his OBP from .349-.356.
Go Nori Go.
A PROFITABLE INNING
Friday’s game offered a textbook example of why managers prefer not to know the performance-bonus details in players’ contracts.
The Mariners held a 5-1 lead entering the ninth inning against Oakland when manager Scott Servais summoned Steve Cishek to close out the victory.
It was a game the Mariners needed to have in their postseason chase, but it wasn’t a save situation and, anyway, Servais wanted to avoid using rookie closer Edwin Diaz, who had labored through 25 pitches in Thursday’s victory.
Cishek was a logical choice. He’s a former closer and now serves as the club’s primary set-up reliever. He responded with a brisk eight-pitch scoreless inning.
It was a $500,000 inning.
Cishek’s contract includes performance bonuses based on games finished, which is typical for a closer — and he was signed last December to serve as the Mariners’ closer. He held the role for four months before a hip injury forced him to the disabled list.
Prior to Friday, Cishek had already triggered $1 million in performance bonuses by reaching targets of 25, 30 and 35 games finished. But he had been at 39 since Aug. 20 in his new role as a set-up reliever.
Reaching 40 games finished triggered another $500,000 performance bonus. He base two-year contract calls for $4 million this year and $6 million in 2017.
It was 21 years ago Monday — Oct. 2, 1995 — that the Mariners reached postseason for the first time in their history when Randy Johnson pitched a complete game in a 9-1 victory over California in the American League West Division tiebreaker game at the Kingdome.
The Mariners trailed the Angels by six games on Sept. 9 but forced a tiebreaker game be winning 15 of their final 20 games. Johnson struck out 12 in his complete-game victory.
Entering Saturday, the Mariners needed one more RBI from Kyle Seager to have three players reach 100 for the first time since 2001. Nelson Cruz had 103 through Friday, and Robinson Cano had 100…they also needed one extra-base hit from Seager to have three players reach 70 for the first time since 1998. Cano had 73 through Friday, and Cruz had 70…
The Mariners play their last scheduled game of the regular season when they conclude a four-game series against Oakland at 12:10 p.m. Sunday at Safeco Field.
Note the time. By rule, Major League Baseball requires all games on the final day to start at roughly the same time.
Right-hander Felix Hernandez (11-7 with a 3.71 ERA) looks to bounce back from a rough outing last Tuesday at Houston when he faces Athletics right-hander Sean Manaea (6-9 and 3.89).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on the Mariners Radio Network, including 770 (KTTH-AM). Note that the game won’t be broadcast by 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners