Seattle knew it needed to win coming into the game and it rallied twice before falling in extra innings.
They wouldn’t go quietly.
That’s not the style of this team and the play of this season. The Mariners knew before the game that they had to win on Saturday night to keep their postseason hopes alive. That was the plan — win every game on this homestand first and let the rest of the wild-card issues sort themselves out. But when the Blue Jays defeated the Red Sox in Fenway, the equation became clear: win or be eliminated.
It took nine innings and then one more to finish them off, but the dream to break the longest postseason drought in Major League Baseball ended Saturday night with a 9-8 loss to the Oakland A’s.
Oakland @ Mariners, 12:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
“We’re not breathing anymore,” M’s manager Scott Servais said, his voice shaking.
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On Sunday, the Mariners will play a game that won’t impact their postseason chances. It comes in the final game of the 162-game schedule. But at no point on Saturday did Servais or his players ever think that was possible. They’d fought their way back into relevance too many times to fall short. When Servais addressed his team following their elimination, it was something he had never considered when they took the field.
“It’s one of the things that I said to the team is that I was not prepared for the end-of-the-season speech,” he said. “Why? I just always felt we were going to make it. I thought worst-case scenario that we would get to the one-game play-in. I really thought that’s where we were headed. It’s hard to swallow and kind of digest it all.”
The game was much like their season, with moments where they were seemingly done followed by comebacks that gave them a reason to believe.
Trailing 9-8, it was all set up for them to tie the game again in the bottom of the 10th. Ben Gamel, who tied the game in the eighth inning with an RBI single, led off with a single. A wild pitch from Ryan Madson moved him into scoring position.
That meant that the best three hitters on the Mariners would have a chance to tie or possibly win the game with one swing. It didn’t happen.
Robinson Cano was jammed on an inside fastball for a soft ground out to third.
Nelson Cruz’s hard ground ball back up the middle hit off Madson’s foot and bounced to first baseman Yonder Alonso, who tagged Cruz.
Kyle Seager flew out to shallow center.
Closer Edwin Diaz took the loss. Asked to pitch in a third straight inning, he gave up a pair of doubles for the go-ahead run. Joey Wendle, who had four hits, delivered the go-ahead double.
“I was trying to elevate and I left a pitch over the middle,” Diaz said.
Trailing from the third inning on, the Mariners tied the game twice but could never retake the lead.
Down a run with two outs in eighth inning, the duo of Mike Freeman and Gamel delivered in the clutch.
Freeman, a waiver claim from the Diamondbacks, and Gamel, an August trade pickup, delivered two of the most important hits of the Mariners’ season. Facing Oakland’s Ryan Dull, Freeman doubled down the left-field line. Nori Aoki worked a walk, setting up Gamel. In the game for defensive purposes, the youngster didn’t shy away from the moment, coolly singling to right field to score Freeman and tie the game at 8-8.
Starter Hisashi Iwakuma worked 32/3 innings, giving up five runs on nine hits with a walk and five strikeouts. It was the third time in seven starts where Iwakuma failed to make it past the fourth inning. He didn’t look crisp from the first pitch of the outing and struggled with putting hitters away with two strikes.
“I was just missing with a lot of my pitches,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki.
Iwakuma’s start fell apart in the third inning. He allowed three straight singles to start the third inning to lead to a run, which was aided by a Ketel Marte error.
Iwakuma came back to strikeout Ryon Healy, but he gave up an RBI ground-rule double to Khris Davis and a two-run double to Yonder Alonso down the right field line — both on 3-2 counts — to make it 4-2.
He managed to escape the third without further damage, but a two-out RBI single from Healy in the fourth inning ended his outing.
“Losing this game and not being able to pitch my game was very frustrating and disappointing,” he said.
Down 5-2, the Mariners’ best player tried to bring them back into the game. Cano’s brilliant 2016 season continued with his 39th homer. With Seth Smith on first base, Cano crushed a 2-0 fastball over the wall in center field. The two-run blast cut the lead to 5-4.
But the Mariners bullpen, forced to take on extra work, just couldn’t keep the A’s from adding to the lead.
Vidal Nuno gave up a run in the sixth inning and Nick Vincent surrendered a solo homer to Khris Davis — his 42nd of the season — in the seventh inning to make it 7-4.
Down three runs in the bottom of the seventh and with their playoff hopes on life support, Cano and Cruz brought the Mariners roaring back against A’s lefty Sean Doolittle. Cano fought off three straight 2-2 fastballs, singling up the middle to cut the lead to 7-5.
With his left wrist hurting with each missed swing, Cruz didn’t miss on a 2-0 fastball on the outside corner, driving it over the wall in deep center for a dramatic, game-tying two-run homer.
All that good feeling was erased with two outs in the eighth inning. After getting two quick outs, Steve Cishek gave up a single to Wendle. It seemed inconsequential at the time. But Cishek made it costly, firing a pickoff attempt to first base that got past Adam Lind and down the right-field line. Wendle raced all the way to third. Marcus Semien made the miscue hurt, hitting a ground-rule double into left-center.
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