The Mariners’ playoff chances vanished via a see-saw, four-hour, 9-8 defeat in extra innings Saturday night before an entertained, exasperated Safeco crowd of 29,522 (box). Oakland’s Joey Wendle had four hits, including an RBI double in the top of the 10th that was the game-winner. Seattle (86-75) trails Baltimore and Toronto by two games in the wild-card standings with one game left.
In the eighth with two out, the A’s made a risky decision intentionally walk red-hot 2BRobinson Cano to load the bases with the score tied 8-8. The fact that RF Nelson Cruz, who hit a huge homer one inning earlier, was up next, raised eyebrows. But Cruz struck out to end the inning.
On a night when pitchers struggled to get outs, it was a throw to first base that dealt the Mariners a huge blow. With two outs in the eighth, a runner on first and the score tied 7-7, reliever Steve Cishek made the ill-advised decision to throw to first base to keep baserunner Wendle from leading off too far. The throw missed 1B Adam Lind by a few feet, and rolled down into right field foul territory. Wendle reached third base.
Marcus Semien delivered a ground-rule double that wouldn’t have scored Wendle from first. He easily jogged in from third for an 8-7 lead. Fortunately for Cishek, who probably never would have lived down that throw, Seattle tied the score.
The biggest game of starter Hisashi Iwakuma’s career ended early. A rough third inning led to a quick exit for the veteran. Oakland had six hits and four runs in the third inning alone, then continued to do damage in the fourth. Manager Scott Servais put Iwakuma out of his misery after 3.2 innings.
Drew Storen and Evan Scribner were effective again, while fellow veterans Vidal Nuno and Nick Vincent gave up costly runs. Cishek let things get away in the eighth, providing a reminder of why he’s not the closer any more. Edwin Diaz got through four batters on just eight pitches, leading to the decision to put him back on the mound in the 10th. He promptly gave up a leadoff double that led to the deciding run.
Two under-the-radar September additions, Ben Gamel and Mike Freeman, provided the spark as eighth-inning pinch hitters. Freeman’s two-out double, his first hit since Aug. 7, started a rally that led to Gamel’s score-tying, RBI single.
Cruz delivered one of the biggest hits of the night with the two-run homer that tied the score 7-7. He followed a Cano RBI single with his 43th home run, sending Safeco Field into a frenzy. In the fifth, Cano provided a spark with his 39th home run, and his third in two nights, as he cut the Oakland lead to 5-4. He added an RBI single in the seventh to pull the Mariners within 7-5.
The Blue Jays dealt Saturday’s big blow when they beat Boston 4-3. The game ended during a stretch when the A’s were hammering out five runs over the fourth and fifth innings, so the weight of a season going south came all at once.
Detroit and Baltimore did their part to keep Seattle’s hopes alive for a while. The Orioles dropped an afternoon game to the Yankees, then the Tigers lost to the hapless Atlanta Braves a few hours later. But by the time Toronto finished off the Red Sox at around 7:45 p.m. PT, Seattle’s margin for error was erased. Two-and-a-half hours later, the dream was over.
“It was a great run. I’ve played a lot of games, and it was an incredible run.” – DH Nelson Cruz
“It was frustrating. It was disappointing to come this far as a team, to get to this game
and not perform. That’s very frustrating.” – Iwakuma
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get as far as we needed to go, and that hurts. A great run — in my mind, a successful run – and we’ll build a foundation from it.” – Servais
The Mariners continue the longest streak of non-playoff seasons in MLB at 15 years. Seattle is also one of only two franchises – Washington/Montreal is the other – to have never played in the World Series. Those well-known facts of ineptitude bear repeating . . . With a win Sunday, the Mariners can match the 2014 total of 87 wins – the seventh-best finish in franchise history.
RHP Felix Hernandez missed a rare opportunity to pitch in a big game Sunday afternoon. The rotation was worked so that Hernandez (11-7, 3.71 ERA) would be on the mound for Game No. 162, but his final start of the season has no playoff implications — again. Oakland LHP Sean Manaea (6-9, 3.89 ERA) has allowed just one earned run over three September, so this one probably won’t be a rollover for the Mariners.