FINAL | Mariners 2, Athletics 1
T-Mobile Park | Seattle
TV: ROOT Sports | Radio: 710 AM
Mariners clinch first postseason berth since 2001 on walk-off home run
After 21 long years of frustration and failures, of close calls and coming up just short, of spring trainings filled with hope and offseasons spent with regret, of entire careers without champagne celebration for King Felix and Kyle Seager, of so much change, including three general managers, eight managers and two interim managers, of hundreds of players, who were good, bad or Chone Figgins, of “Believe Big” to “True to the Blue” to “Sea Us Rise,” the Seattle Mariners are finally returning to the playoffs.
With an aching sore thumb that he’s tried to play through for the last few weeks and kept him out of the starting lineup on Friday night, catcher Cal Raleigh came in to pinch hit with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game.
After flailing at a 3-1 slider and fouling off another slider from right-hander Domingo Acevedo, Raleigh didn’t miss the third straight slider that stayed over the middle.
He launched a majestic fly ball deep into the night. As it climb toward the right field stands, his teammates and 44,754 rose in anticipation for jubilation. The ball smacked off the windows of the Hit It Here Cafe and turned T-Mobile Park into joyous bedlam.
To the 9th inning we go ...
Eugenio Suarez grounded into a double play after Ty France hit a bloop single to right field to end the eighth inning.
Here comes Matt Brash and Los Bomberos.
Crawford grounds out to end Mariners' threat as Gilbert comes back out in eighth inning
J.P. Crawford came up to bat with two on, two out and a shot to play the hero in the bottom of the seventh inning. But alas.
Crawford grounded out to second base to end the threat.
Logan Gilbert will come back out in the eighth inning for the first time in his young career, while Matt Brash gets loose in the pen.
End of 4: Torrens, Kelenic strike out after Santana's ground-rule double
Major bummer: Luis Torrens and Jarred Kelenic followed Carlos Santana's one-out double with swinging strikeouts.
Logan Gilbert will face the 8-9-1 hitters in the top of the fifth.
Mariners remain tied at 1 heading into bottom of 4th inning
Logan Gilbert allowed a single to Jordan Diaz to start the fourth inning, but retired the next three batters, including a strikeout of Seth Brown, to keep the Athletics at bay.
The Mariners are a win away from clinching a playoff berth, and we're following it live with you. Buckle up.
Wild card scoreboard update
While all eyes are on the Yankees-Orioles score, the two other teams in the AL Wild Card race are also playing tonight. The Blue Jays are cruising, up 8-0 over the Red Sox in the 7th inning, while the Rays are hanging on to a 3-2 lead over the Astros in the fifth.
Orioles lead Yankees 2-1 in seventh inning
The Orioles are holding on to a one-run lead over the Yankees in the seventh inning. If that holds, the Mariners would need a win Friday night in order to clinch a playoff berth.
Orioles take a 2-1 lead over NYY in the 6th, and threatening for more
Yankees reliever Zack Britton let a ball lost control of a fastball that sailed to the backstop, and the Orioles capitalized with a run in the top of the sixth inning. The Orioles still have a pair of runners in scoring position with one out.
With magic number down to 1, Mariners look to clinch playoff berth on Friday
And now the number is one.
Put simply, the Mariners are one win or one Baltimore loss from ending a postseason drought they begrudgingly inherited, tried to ignore, rationalized their responsibility in it and finally understood it was their burden to carry.
Now they are just that one game from being the team to accomplish what felt agonizingly just out of reach at times and impossible to achieve more often than not over two decades of losing and frustration.
With a crazy, back-and-forth 10-9 victory over the Rangers in 11 innings Thursday night at T-Mobile Park, the postseason is so close that if MLB had told them to play another game right after the win, they’d have been willing to do it.
The Mariners could clinch a wild-card spot Friday night in front of what is expected to be a sold-out crowd, with fireworks scheduled postgame. Perhaps Champagne will be added to the menu.
“I have heard it for seven years,” manager Scott Servais said. “Every day when I get up in the morning and I drive to work, that’s what’s on my mind. But the goal is winning a World Series. It’s not just to end the drought.”
“We will end the drought tomorrow,” Servais said. “We’re going to, and it’s a beautiful thing.”
Jarred Kelenic has played his way into Mariners’ postseason plans
All signs are pointing to Julio Rodriguez returning from the injured list Monday, just in time to play in the final few regular-season games before the Mariners’ first potential playoff series since 2001.
Even when Rodriguez returns to his usual spot in center field, Jarred Kelenic won’t be going far.
Kelenic, 23, has played well as the fill-in center fielder over the past week — so well that the Mariners fully intend to keep their former top prospect on the playoff roster.
Kelenic has hit three home runs in seven games since being recalled from Class AAA Tacoma last week — including two on Thursday night — and his solid play defensively gives manager Scott Servais a viable option in left field.
“He’s playing free and easy and confident, and we need it,” Servais said late Thursday, after the Mariners’ 10-9 extra-innings victory over Texas. “He’s going to be a big part of our team as we go through this postseason push.”
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