SEATTLE – The Keep Fighting Kids finally got a little help Friday night in their uphill postseason chase – and they took full advantage.
Robinson Cano hit two homers, while Nelson Cruz and Nori Aoki each contributed one in support of a strong effort from Taijuan Walker as the Mariners rolled to a 5-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field.
The victory, combined with Toronto’s loss at Boston, allowed the Mariners to pull to within one game of the Blue Jays in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth with two games remaining.
It’s not quite that simple. The Mariners must also catch Detroit, which is one-half game behind the Blue Jays. But it all, suddenly, seems tantalizingly within reach.
Walker (8-11) gave up one run and two hits in six innings before handing a 5-1 lead to Evan Scribner. Walker walked five while throwing 113 pitches. Scribner, Nick Vincent and Steve Cishek closed out the victory.
The Mariners did all of their damage in the first two-plus innings against Oakland starter Raul Alcantara. They didn’t get a hit in six innings against relievers Zach Neal and Daniel Coulombe.
They didn’t need any.
Cano’s first homer was a two-run shot in the first inning that opened the scoring. He cleared the center-field wall by putting a 406-foot change into a 1-1 fastball from Alcantara.
It followed a leadoff single by Aoki and a deep fly out by Seth Smith.
The Mariners had a chance for a bigger inning when Nelson Cruz lined a single to left and Kyle Seager drew a walk. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third with one out.
But Alcantara (1-3) escaped further damage when Adam Lind grounded out, and Leonys Martin struck out.
Walker worked around some two-out trouble in the second inning by striking out Jake Smolinski after allowing a double to Marcus Semien, throwing a wild pitch and walking Bruce Maxwell.
Aoki extended the lead to 3-0 with a two-out homer in the second inning on a high line-hugging drive to right field. It was his fourth homer of the year.
Cano and Cruz opened the third inning with back-to-back homers. Both went to center field, although Cruz’s blast required a crew-chief video review. It appeared Smolinski might have pulled the ball back into play.
The Mariners just missed a third straight homer when Seager sent Smolinski to the wall. Smolinski caught the ball momentarily with a leaping effort, but the ball came loose when he hit the wall.
The result was a double, which finished Alcantara, who gave up five runs and seven hits in two-plus innings.
Walker pitched around two walks and a Cano error in the fifth inning by retiring Stephen Vogt on a pop to third.
Walker ended the inning at 98 pitches, but the Mariners brought him back for the sixth inning – and he gave up a leadoff homer to Ryon Healy.
That was it, though. Walker retired the next three hitters before the Mariners turned to their bullpen.
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