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Mariners’ postseason drought reaches 15 seasons

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma didn’t make it through the fourth inning Saturday against Oakland. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
By Bob Dutton Tacoma News Tribune

SEATTLE – And so it continues.

The Mariners extended baseball’s longest postseason drought Saturday night with a rousing but ultimately wrenching 9-8 loss to Oakland in 10 innings that officially eliminated them from the wild-card chase.

Joey Wendle’s one-out double into the right-center gap against Edwin Diaz (0-4) provided the Athletics with the winning run.

It’s been an uphill quest for the Mariners over the closing weeks, but they fueled hope with an 18-9 run through September, including seven victories in their previous nine games.

That got them close. But only close.

Like Saturday, when the Mariners erased a series of deficits in the closing innings before it slipped away. Their postseason drought is now 15 years since their magical 116-victory season in 2001.

Bruce Maxwell opened the Oakland 10th with a double to left against Diaz, who had entered the game with two outs in the eighth inning.

After Chad Pinder replaced Maxwell as a pinch-runner, Matt Olson struck out before Wendle ripped an RBI double into the right-center gap. It was Wendle’s fourth hit of the game.

And it was enough.

Oakland closer Ryan Madson (6-7) worked around Ben Gamel’s leadoff single in closing out the victory.

Gamel moved to second on a wild pitch, but Madson set down the heart of the Mariners’ lineup: Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.

And it was over.

The Mariners stumbled early when usually steady Hisashi Iwakuma spewed up a poor start in lasting just 3 2/3 innings, and a bullpen that had a 1.76 ERA since Sept. 7 couldn’t prevent the Athletics from playing add-on.

Steve Cishek got two quick outs in the eighth inning after Cruz’s two-run homer capped a three-run seventh that pulled the Mariners even at 7.

Cishek gave up a 0-2 single to Wendle on a sharp single back through the box. Cishek then made an errant pickoff throw that permitted Wendle to reach third.

Marcus Semien followed with a drive into the left-center gap that hopped the wall for an RBI double. It was Semien’s fourth hit and, it loomed as a knockout punch until the Mariners mounted a two-out rally later in the inning against Ryan Dull and pulled even again on Gamel’s two-out RBI single.

Saturday became a must-win game for the Mariners once Toronto closed out a victory at Boston. The Mariners built an early 2-0 lead and, after Iwakuma gave up five runs, fell one rally short.

They trailed 7-4 when Nori Aoki opened the seventh inning with a double against Oakland reliever Sean Doolittle. A one-out single by Cano scored Aoki.

Cruz followed with a two-run homer to center, and the Mariners were back even. At that moment, the crowd of 29,522 turned Seattle into a baseball town.

Earlier, the Mariners trailed 5-2 in the fifth when Cano launched a two-run homer that knocked out Oakland starter Jharel Cotton.

It was Cano’s 39th homer of the season, which extended a career high, and it brought the crowd back to life – for the first time.

Athletics reliever Liam Hendriks replaced Cotton and held the lead through the fifth by retiring Cruz and Seager.

Oakland blunted the Mariners’ momentum by scoring once in the sixth inning on Wendle’s RBI single against Vidal Nuno, which pushed the lead back to two runs at 6-4.

Nick Vincent then yielded a one-out homer to Khris Davis in the seventh inning that boosted the lead to 7-4. It was No. 42 for Davis, and it came on a booming blast to straightaway center field.

The Mariners got it all back in the seventh.

Iwakuma pitched around a leadoff single and a two-out walk in the first inning. But already, there were signs that he wasn’t in top form.

The Mariners opened the scoring with successive singles to start the second inning by Seager, Adam Lind and Leonys Martin. Three lefties; lefties were a combined 1 for 32 prior to that against Cotton.

A one-out error by Wendle on Ketel Marte’s grounder to second loaded the bases and led to another run when the Athletics settled for a force at second on Aoki’s grounder.

Oakland struck back with four runs in the third after it opened the inning successive singles from Wendle and Semien and Stephen Vogt, which produced one run.

Davis tied the game with a one-out double that hopped the center-field wall. Yonder Alonso then pulled a two-run double into the right-field corner. Oakland led 4-2.

The Athletics extended their lead to 5-2 in the fourth and knocked out Iwakuma. Semien split the right-center gap for a one-out double and scored on Ryon Healy’s two-out single.

Drew Storen replaced Iwakuma, who allowed five runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. Storen ended the inning by striking out Davis.