SEATTLE — The last-place Oakland Athletics fell just short of handing the Seattle Mariners a crushing loss to their playoff hopes.
Mike Zunino delivered the go-ahead home run in the seventh inning and Seattle held on for a 3-2 victory over Oakland on Thursday night, keeping the Mariners on the edge of the AL wild-card chase.
Oakland lost for the ninth time in 10 games.
Seattle is two games behind Baltimore and Toronto with three games to play. The Orioles defeated the Blue Jays 4-0 to pull even atop the wild-card race. Detroit, which was rained out against Cleveland, is a half-game ahead of the Mariners, who have three left against Oakland.
“We can only control what we do here,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We need help. We know that. I think everybody thought the way Toronto was playing, they’d probably win two out of three at home. Didn’t happen. The way we look at it, we’re still alive. We’ve got to win tomorrow’s game and again, pray for a little help.”
Zunino, hitting .139 over his last 25 games, opened the seventh with his 12th home run, sending a 2-2 pitch from Liam Hendriks (0-4) deep over the wall in left to put Seattle up 2-1.
Seattle added a run in the eighth on a two-out single by Leonys Martin, a walk to Zunino and Ketel Marte’s RBI single.
Steve Cishek (4-6) came on to stifle an Oakland threat in the seventh with an inning-ending double play and added a perfect eighth. Rookie Edwin Diaz notched his 18th save, despite allowing a run and three hits in the ninth.
Oakland starter Kendall Graveman, tagged for eight runs on 12 hits in five innings in his last start against Seattle, gave up just one run on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.
“We made an adjustment from the last two times and we started to pitch in tonight, and said if they are going to beat us they are going to have to beat us when we throw fastballs in,” Graveman said. “That lineup over there, they stack a lot of lefties in on you, and if you start pitching them away they start to see it out there and put some good swings on it. For the most part, I thought we commanded it pretty well tonight.”
The Mariners took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on three consecutive singles before running themselves out of the inning. Kyle Seager reached on an infield single when Graveman couldn’t find the handle on his two-out dribbler along the first-base line. Adam Lind followed with a single to center. Martin singled through the right side, scoring Seager from second. Martin continued for second, but was caught in a rundown. Lind was thrown out at home trying to score on the play.
Chad Pinder brought Oakland even in the sixth with his first career home run, a leadoff shot to left for the only run off starter Ariel Miranda.
Oakland had runners on first and third with one out in the seventh, but failed to score. Danny Valencia singled to open, but was forced at second on Brett Eibner’s fielder’s choice groundout to short. Yonder Alonso then singled Eibner to third. Cishek relieved and enticed pinch-hitter Max Muncy into a ending double play grounder.
“It came down to situational out bats,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “We had runners at third with less than two outs, then we hit into a double play and two strikeouts . Our situational at-bats hurt us tonight.”
VALENCIA CLOSING STRONG
Danny Valencia, who double and singled, is hitting .326 over his last 12 games with two doubles, a homer, three RBIs and six walks. On the road this season, Valencia is batting .323 (14 for 43).
A’s: RHP Raul Alcantara (1-2, 5.75 ERA) makes his fifth career start since being called up from Triple-A Nashville on Sept. 5. He faced Seattle on Sept. 11, giving up two runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings without a decision.
Mariners: RHP Taijaun Walker’s up-and-down season seems to be back on the upswing. Walker (7-11, 4.35 ERA) was 2-0 with 1.44 in four April starts, then went 0-5 in May and eventually was sent to Triple-A. He’s 3-1 in his last four starts.