SEATTLE — The Mariners kept their slim postseason hopes alive Thursday night with some cooperation from the A’s.
Oakland didn’t turn in the sharpest defensive effort and the A’s bats couldn’t come through in a 3-2 loss at Safeco Field to open this season-ending four-game series.
It was a 1-1 game when Mike Zunino homered off A’s reliever Liam Hendriks in the seventh for the deciding run. The Mariners tacked on a run in the eighth against Ryan Madson and Edwin Diaz closed it out in a tense ninth, as Seattle remained two games behind Baltimore and Toronto with three to play in the race for the American League’s two Wild Card berths.
The A’s threatened off Diaz in their final chance, putting runners on second and third with no outs. But Diaz struck out Danny Valencia after falling behind 2-0 in the count. After Bruce Maxwell’s RBI single closed it to 3-2, Yonder Alonso chased strike three with runners on the corners, and Max Muncy also went down swinging to end it.
The A’s first run scored on Chad Pinder’s first major league homer, a shot to left that tied it 1-1 in the sixth.
Starting pitching report: Kendall Graveman had to work hard in this one, throwing 108 pitches just to get through 5 2/3 innings. Yet he’d allowed just one run by the time Liam Hendriks came to relieve him with two outs and runners on the corners in the sixth. He struck out six and walked one in his last start of 2016, lowering his final ERA to 4.11. He didn’t generate the large number of ground-ball outs he normally does, but he struck out the side in the first and you can’t really argue with the results. Manager Bob Melvin and assistant trainer Walt Horn visited Graveman during the sixth for an unclear reason. Then after Adam Lind singled sharply, Melvin went to the bullpen.
Bullpen report: Hendriks hadn’t allowed an earned run in 17 of his past 20 games before surrendering Zunino’s go-ahead homer in the seventh on a 2-2 fastball. The run off Madson in the eighth wound up looming large.
At the plate: The A’s had their chance against Diaz, who was struggling with his command for much of the ninth. But he got all three of his outs on strikeouts of Valencia, Alonso and Muncy to strand the tying run at third. The A’s have been held to two or fewer runs in seven of their past 10 games.
In the field: Leonys Martin’s run-scoring single in the fourth broke a scoreless tie, but the A’s did well on that play to catch Lind in a rundown between third and home and provide further damage that inning. But the A’s had trouble doing the little things in this one. Graveman couldn’t pick up Kyle Seager’s dribbler near the first base line, and that infield single set up Seattle’s first run. In the seventh, Nori Aoki’s bunt somehow slid between Sean Doolittle and Alonso, though Doolittle did good work to escape that jam and keeping it a 2-1 game at the time.
Mariners shortstop Ketel Marte made a sensational play in the seventh, sliding to a knee to field Brett Eisner’s grounder in the hole and throwing to second to force Danny Valencia.
Attendance: Just 19,796 showed up for a game that had big postseason implications for the Mariners.
Up next: Raul Alcantara (1-2, 5.75) and Taijuan Walker (7-11, 4.35) take the mound in Friday’s 7:10 p.m. game.