SEATTLE (AP) — Manager Scott Servais was not prepared to give the season-ending speech to his team. He expected the Seattle Mariners season to matter for at least a few more days — and possibly well into October.
After 10 wild innings that personified their season, the Mariners playoff hopes ended on Saturday night, extending baseball’s longest postseason drought to 15 years with a 9-8 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
“We’re not breathing anymore,” Servais said.
Weeks of living on the edge of playoff contention finally caught up with Seattle in game No. 161. Edwin Diaz gave up a one-out RBI double to Joey Wendle in the 10th and the Mariners were unable to mount one last rally after coming from behind four times earlier in the game.
Ben Gamel was standing at second base with no outs in the 10th after a single and wild pitch. He advanced to third when Nelson Cruz’s comebacker deflected off pitcher Ryan Madson (6-7) almost directly to first base, but the fortunate ricochet for Oakland prevented Gamel from possibly scoring.
Kyle Seager flew out to center field for the final out and final gasp in Seattle’s quest to get back to the playoffs.
“I’ve only been a Mariner for a year, but I have to believe that will go down as one of the most memorable games in Mariners history,” Servais said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way. You know, can’t say enough about our team. The competitive spirit.”
The Mariners last reached the postseason in 2001 when they tied the major league record with 116 wins in the regular season but were eliminated in the AL Championship Series by the New York Yankees.
They were hoping to take their playoff chances to the final day of the regular season for the second time in three years. After rallying for three runs in the seventh and one in the eighth to tie it 8-8, the Mariners couldn’t make game No. 162 count.
Bruce Maxwell opened the 10th with a double off Diaz (0-4), and Wendle’s fourth hit of the night put Oakland in front.
“To get as many contributions from so many guys on the roster today in particular some of the younger guys. … This is really going to serve them well in the future knowing they can play in this type of atmosphere,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.
Seattle was well aware it needed a victory to stay alive in the wild-card race as highlights and updates of the other games were shown in the stadium throughout the early innings. “New York, New York” played during batting practice after the Yankees knocked off Baltimore, and cheers erupted when Atlanta beat Detroit.
But there were groans abound after Toronto scored in the ninth to beat Boston and turn Seattle’s task into a must-win.
“Everybody had a taste of what it (is) to be in a playoff atmosphere,” Cruz said. “It was like that for like a week. It was a great run. I’ve played a lot of games and it was an incredible run.”
The Mariners rallied from 5-2 and 7-4 deficits to pull even at 7-all in the seventh inning after a two-run home run from Cruz, his 43rd of the season. Oakland took an 8-7 lead in the eighth but Gamel’s two-out single scored Mike Freeman to tie the game again. It was Gamel’s first hit since Sept. 18 after going hitless in his previous 11 at-bats.
But Seattle will lament missed opportunities in the eighth and ninth innings. Each time Seattle had the bases loaded with two outs and couldn’t push across another run. Jesus Sucre was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs in the ninth and Nori Aoki’s lined one-hopper was snagged at second base by Wendle to end the threat.
“I’m walking back to the dugout, I really liked our matchup with Nori facing Madson and he hits a one-hopper right at the second basemen. Last inning, (Cruz) hits a ball off Madson’s leg. You know, it’s a game of inches and we were playing on the slightest of margins and we just didn’t quite get over the hump,” Servais said. “A little bit like our season, I guess.”
Lost in the drama of all the late action was a shaky final performance by Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma. After carrying the Mariners for stretches of the season, Iwakuma lasted just 3 2/3 innings and gave up five runs in his last start of the year. He finished 16-12 on the season.
“I was just missing a lot of my pitches to the fat part of the plate. It cost me a lot,” Iwakuma said through an interpreter.
Athletics: Left-hander Sean Manaea (6-9) closes out his rookie season on Sunday. Since coming off the disabled list in mid-September, Manaea is 1-0 with a 0.50 ERA in three starts.
Mariners: Felix Hernandez (11-7) makes his final start of the year. Hernandez lost his last start against Houston.
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