And the Mariners keep coming.
Ketel Marte delivered a tiebreaking RBI single in the ninth inning that enabled the Mariners to stretch their winning streak to five games with a 3-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.
“We had a lot of clutch hits late and needed it,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “The bullpen was solid. Nice series for us. We certainly got accomplished what we needed to get done here.”
The victory allowed the Mariners to remain 3 1/2 games behind Baltimore in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth with 19 games remaining.
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So it remains an uphill battle.
“You’ve got to take it just one game at a time,” said third baseman Kyle Seager, who started a key double play in the Oakland seventh inning. “You’ve got to be in the moment. You’ve got to have fun.
“Today was a battle, but we got some big hits.”
Mike Zunino had two of them.
His two-run homer in the second inning opened the scoring and was all the Mariners had until the ninth, which he started by whacking Ryan Madson’s first pitch into the left field corner for a leadoff double.
“When you get the closer in there,” Zunino said, “you want to hop on him early. Not try to wait him out. We had a decent report on him, which said the first pitch is usually the best pitch to get. I didn’t want to waste any time.”
After Ben Gamel replaced Zunino as a pinch runner, Leonys Martin fouled off an attempted sacrifice bunt before lining a single to right. Third-base coach Manny Acta chose caution and held Gamel at third.
It didn’t matter.
Marte punched an RBI single up the middle.
“I was thinking (Madsen) would throw me a fastball on the first pitch,” Marte said, “and when he threw me a fastball, I put my best swing on it.”
The Mariners had a chance to extend their lead, but one run was enough for rookie closer Edwin Diaz, who sealed the victory for his 15th save in 16 chances.
It was tense throughout the closing innings.
Former Oakland reliever Evan Scribner inherited a 2-2 tie when he replaced Mariners lefty James Paxton to start the seventh inning. Paxton limited the Athletics to two runs and five hits in six innings.
Scribner yielded a one-out triple to Brett Eibner, but escaped when, after an intentional walk to Yonder Alonso, pinch hitter Joey Wendle grounded into double play. Seager opted to try for two outs after gloving a sharp grounder. Marte scampered over from shortstop for the catch and made a snap throw to first for the double play.
“(Wendle) runs pretty well,” Seager said, “but as hard as that ball was hit, as soon as I got to it, I was going to second. Marte made a nice turn, coming from shortstop. That play is a little harder from there.”
Steve Cishek then pitched around Jake Smolinski’s leadoff single in the Oakland eighth inning. Cishek (3-6) got the victory when the Mariners scored in the ninth. Madson (5-5) was the loser.
Athletics right-hander Raul Alcantara, in his second career start, gave up the two-run homer in the second inning to Zunino, but nothing more before departing with two outs and runners at second and third in the sixth inning.
Adam Lind preceded Zunino’s homer by working back from an 0-2 hole for a two-out walk. Alcantara jumped ahead 0-2 on Zunino, missed with a slider and then tried another one.
“Another at-bat where I felt like I got to two strikes pretty quick,” Zunino said. “But he showed me the slider early, and I was able to lay off of it. He threw another one that was in the zone and up. I was able to barrel it.”
Zunino sent it on a 402-foot ride into the second deck beyond the left field wall for a 2-0 lead — that didn’t survive the inning.
Oakland loaded the bases on singles by Khris Davis, Ryon Healy and Stephen Vogt. Paxton forced in one run on a walk to Eibner before Alonso tied the game with a sacrifice fly.
Paxton held the tie by turning Chad Pinder’s grounder into a pitcher-second-first (1-4-3) double play. It stayed 2-2 until the ninth inning.
PLUS: Marte was 3 of 3 in addition to reaching base when hit by a pitch.
MINUS: Robinson Cano went hitless in five at-bats, which dropped his average to .299. He has one hit in his last 16 at-bats.
SHORT HOPS: First baseman Lind suffered a sprained right forefinger when he dived to stop Vogt’s single in the second inning. Lind was replaced at the start of the Oakland fifth by Dae-Ho Lee. Lind is likely to miss a few games.