The 2021 Major League Baseball season has just five days left and the Seattle Mariners are only a half-game out of a playoff spot. They haven't been in a postseason since 2001, which is now the longest playoff drought in baseball. Their 18-year postseason drought is not only the longest in baseball, it's the longest in North American pro sports (NBA, NHL, NFL).

This is the closest the club has been to a playoff spot with five or fewer games left in the season since 2001, when they last reached the postseason. They are actually on quite a surge right now, too, having won nine of their last 10 games. 

Here are three reasons they are still threatening. 

1. Clutch hitting

The Mariners enter Wednesday last in the American League in hits and batting average. They are 13th (of 15 teams) in on-base percentage, 14th in slugging, 14th in OPS and 11th in runs. 

What they have done, somehow, is raise their game hitting when it matters more. They are generally terrible at getting on base, but when they do, they start to hit. Check out this progression: 

Bases empty: .211/.286/.361
Runners on: .249/.327/.423
Runners in scoring position: .260/.339/.453

Or how about this:

Low leverage: .205/.287/.337
Medium leverage: .228/.299/.397
High leverage: .274/.348/.485

Yep, the Mariners collectively have the clutch gene. 

Is this predictive for the next few games? That's never been proven one way or the other. At this point with this Mariners team, however, that is irrelevant. It's how they've gotten to this point in games that have already happened. As far as if it continues in the Mariners' final four games, confidence plays a huge role in a mental game like baseball. My hunch is they believe it'll keep up and that means I wouldn't bet against it in the short term. 

2. Closing out close games

The Mariners have a negative-50 run differential and a 33-18 record in one-run games. Conventional wisdom says that means they are an inferior team to others in similar territory in playoff contention. The only thing that actually matters is record, however, and the Mariners are right there. 

Plus, there are things that separate teams in close games. We mentioned one above in how the Mariners have come through so often in big situations at the plate. 

Another would be having good bullpen arms. 

Before he was traded, Kendall Graveman had a 0.82 ERA in 33 innings. Diego Castillo was his replacement and he's been good (2.66 ERA, 0.93 WHIP in 20 1/3 innings). Casey Sadler has been excellent. Joe Smith has proven a good pickup. 

Let's give it up for Paul Sewald and Drew Steckenrider, though. These two bullpen horses have been brilliant. Sewald has 99 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings with a 2.77 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. He's also stranded 18 of the 21 runners he inherited. Steckenrider (2.09 ERA in 64 2/3 innings) has stranded 18 of the 24 runners he's inherited. Those are just amazing numbers and strongly go toward the work they've done in helping the Mariners to that stellar record in close games. 

Let's also give manager Scott Servais credit for how well he's used his bullpen, especially in how he was forced to adapt in light of the surprising Graveman trade. 

3. Late power surges

Kyle Seager is having a career year in the power department. Despite hitting just .213 with a .288 OBP, he has 35 homers and 100 RBI. Both are career highs. He has slowed down this month, which makes him a bit of an outlier. 

Mitch Haniger has eight homers and 19 RBI in his last 17 games. He's been a power-hitting machine all year, but he's good enough right now to carry an offense. Only he hasn't had to. 

Jarred Kelenic got off to a historically-bad start to his career, but has picked things up of late, notably in the power department. In his last 24 games, Kelenic is hitting .239/.323/.545 with seven homers and 16 RBI. 

And how about Luis Torrens? He's not nearly the power threat the others listed are, but he's been on fire of late. In his last 17 games, he's hitting .364/.379/.455. He's 5 for 9 so far this series against the A's. 

The Mariners have a game Wednesday night at home against the A's before a three-game series against the Angels, also at home, Friday through Sunday. Winning out gets them to 92-70, which would be their best record since 2003. Will it be enough to snap the drought? That'll depend on what the Red Sox and/or Yankees do in the meantime. Regardless, it's been an impressive run in Seattle and they're doing it with timely hitting, power and excellent bullpen work.