Even in the aftermath of a loss that could end up costing them in the race to host the AL wild-card game, the party raged on in the Oakland Athletics clubhouse.
Why not? For the second straight year, the A’s have found their way into the postseason.
“It feels amazing. It feels like this is becoming a habit. It’s a good thing,” drenched outfielder Mark Canha said.
Oakland wrapped up a playoff spot before first pitch, but missed a chance to move closer to hosting next week’s wild-card game when closer Liam Hendriks gave up two runs in the ninth inning of a 4-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.
Oakland is tied with Tampa Bay for the two wild-card spots at 96-64. Oakland holds the tiebreaker if the teams wind up even, meaning the A’s would host the Rays on Wednesday night.
Oakland sealed its postseason berth when Cleveland lost to Washington. Many of the A’s exchanged a brief set of hugs and high fives in the dugout after the Indians loss went final.
The real party was still to come, even if it came after a loss. And for the second straight year, the party took place in Seattle, home of the team with the longest playoff drought in baseball.
“That’s pretty much why we play the game is to get an opportunity to play in the postseason,” Oakland starting pitcher Mike Fiers said. “Obviously we set our goals to win the division, that didn’t happen, but as long as we’re in we have an opportunity to make some noise. We can’t ask for anything more than that.”
Seattle put a damper on some of Oakland’s party by scoring twice with two outs in the ninth. Shed Long’s RBI single scored Mallex Smith with the tying run and J.P. Crawford followed with an RBI double to win it for the Mariners.
Hendriks (4-4) blew his seventh save of the season. Seattle tied the game at 3 on Long’s two-strike single up the middle. Smith singled with one out, moved up on a pair of wild pitches and jogged home on Long’s hit.
Crawford followed going the opposite way down the left-field line and Long used his speed to score from first.
“Our guys have a lot to play for too, trying to prove themselves. ... It’s nice for those guys to get the results like that,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said.
It’s the second straight year and third time since 2014 the A’s have earned a wild-card berth. Last year the A’s lost 7-2 to the New York Yankees in the wild-card game, and they fell to Kansas City in 2014.
Two years ago, the A’s won 75 games. Last year, they won 97 games. With two more wins this weekend, they would finish with 98 victories.
“This group’s establishing themselves as one of the better teams in the American League, and any time you win as many games as we have it means you had another successful season,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “These guys are still hungry.”
Matt Olson appeared to make it celebratory night for the A’s with a two-run home run off Taylor Guilbeau in the seventh inning to give Oakland a 3-2 lead. It was his 36th home run of the season and brought raucous cheers from the small smattering of fans in green around the ballpark.
But Hendriks ran into trouble in the ninth. He had allowed just two earned runs in the past 10 appearances.
Marcus Semien led off the game with his 33rd home run on the fourth pitch from Justus Sheffield. Seattle took a 2-1 lead in the third inning after Austin Nola’s RBI single. It was the Mariners’ first lead since the first inning of last Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Baltimore, a span of 37 innings since Seattle was last in front.
Art Warren (1-0) pitched the ninth to get the victory.
Fiers got through five innings, but wasn’t at his best. He allowed two runs and four hits and struck out four. It wasn’t as good as his last start when he pitched eight shutout innings against Texas, but was better than the two prior starts against the Astros and Rangers where he allowed 12 earned runs in 2 2/3 combined innings.
Sheffield labored through five innings in the final start of his first season with the organization, but limited the A’s to only Semien’s homer. Sheffield allowed five hits and walked four, and stranded baserunners at third in the second, fourth and fifth innings.
“He was really amped up in the first ... and we needed him to calm down. And he did. He started to get into his flow and his pitches,” Servais said.
Semien’s home run moved him into the lead among shortstops in the AL. Semien has one more than Boston’s Xander Bogaerts and two ahead of Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor. ... Olson leads all AL first basemen with his 36 homers.
Melvin is hoping for a chance to work OF Stephen Piscotty into the lineup over the weekend after he missed a month with an ankle injury.
Athletics: Brett Anderson (12-9, 4.00) is 8-3 with a 3.40 ERA in 15 road starts this season. It will be his 31st start of the season, tying a career-high.
Mariners: Marco Gonzales (16-12, 4.09) looks to put a capper on a season that’s already seen career highs in wins and starts.