OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Seattle Mariners watched Oakland make a playoff push with a pair of dramatic weekend wins.
So close sometimes, these Mariners. They missed chances in the early innings, just as they did all series in being swept.
Yoenis Cespedes hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning to move Oakland a win closer to the club’s first playoff berth in six years, and the A’s beat Seattle 5-2 on Sunday to stay right on the heels of Texas in the AL West race.
“That’s really been the story of our season offensively,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “Without a doubt these kids have gotten better individually, but collectively we’ve got to do better when you do create those opportunities and finish things off. … At certain times you just have to put the ball in play, shorten up and make contact. From an offensive standpoint we have a lot to work on.”
The A’s provided a nice example of what is working so well for the surprising, low-budget club.
Cespedes also hit an RBI triple and Brandon Moss had a sacrifice fly in the first inning for the A’s (91-68), who are two games behind Texas (93-66).
The two-time reigning AL champion Rangers come to the Coliseum for the final three games starting Monday with the division crown still up for grabs.
“It’s our choice,” closer Grant Balfour said. “If we go out there and win, good things are going to happen. The way we’re playing right now I feel like we’ve got some good momentum going. We want to keep it rolling all the way through October.”
Oakland leads the Los Angeles Angels (88-71) by three games for the second AL wild card.
Cespedes sent a 1-2 pitch from Shawn Kelley (2-4) towering into the left-field seats for his 23rd homer. He keyed another thrilling victory for the A’s a day after Moss hit a three-run drive in the 10th inning of Oakland’s 14th walkoff win.
Josh Reddick connected with a two-run shot for his team-leading 32nd homer two batters later.
Kelley threw his glove in frustration once back in the dugout after Cespedes’ homer.
“We’ve lost a lot of close games on this road trip and I don’t know, I had the feeling of just being another guy out there letting them do their thing,” Kelley said. “It didn’t sit with me well. I wasn’t very happy. I’m still not.”
Upstart Oakland, with its energetic roster of rookies, has hit 20 home runs in its last nine games and has a majors-best 110 since the All-Star break.
But the A’s will have to wait at least one more day to secure a playoff berth. The Angels kept their hopes alive by rallying in the ninth to win the opener of the doubleheader at Texas.
Oakland dropped its magic number to one for clinching the club’s first playoff berth since 2006. The A’s were swept that year by the Tigers in four games of the AL championship series.
“We’re in the dugout today and all of a sudden the Angels score went up and it’s so emotional this time of year,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Your thoughts can go back and forth based on one scoreboard change. It is exciting, it is fun. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster at times.”
Sean Doolittle (2-1) pitched a perfect eighth for the win, and Balfour finished for his 22nd save.
Kyle Seager and Justin Smoak each hit RBI singles in the third as Seattle tied it. The Mariners were 0 for 17 with runners in scoring position this series before Carlos Triunfel’s second-inning single. But Smoak was thrown out at home as the A’s saved a run.
Milone gave way to Pat Neshek with two outs in the fifth and Casper Wells on third with a triple. But Neshek was done after walking Jesus Montero on four pitches.
Jerry Blevins relieved and retired Smoak on a grounder in which Donaldson made a lunging, run-saving stop.
All-Star Ryan Cook allowed Trayvon Robinson’s leadoff single in the seventh, then struck out the side.
The tough losses keep piling up for the Mariners.
“It’s definitely been pretty crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Kelley said. “You don’t like to lose but to keep losing in this fashion is not fun.”
A’s starter Tommy Milone allowed a leadoff double to Franklin Gutierrez to start the game but got out of it unscathed. The left-hander, whose 13 wins are already an Oakland rookie record, allowed two runs and nine hits in 4 2-3 innings. He struck out three and didn’t surrender a walk.
“We feel like we can win every game,” Milone said. “That’s how we’re playing right now.”
Gutierrez, the Seattle center fielder, left the game before the bottom of the third with tightness in his left groin after batting in the top half. Gutierrez, who missed Friday’s series opener after crashing into the wall a day earlier at Anaheim, hit a pair of doubles and scored a run following an 0-for-5 day Saturday. He is day to day.
When Coco Crisp drew a leadoff walk in the third, it ended a 16-inning streak without a free pass for Ramirez. The right-hander walked four to double his total in eight major league starts.
NOTES: Cespedes hit his fifth homer vs. the Mariners in the seventh inning or later. And Oakland won the season series 12-7. … Wedge rested 2B Dustin Ackley for most of the day and got a second straight look at Triunfel, who played SS on Saturday. … Seattle ends the season at home against the Angels still with a chance to affect the playoffs. Felix Hernandez (13-8) pitches Monday’s opener at Safeco Field against C.J. Wilson (12-10).
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.