Here was the other side of September baseball. The side in the shadows, away from the glare of the postseason chase. Two bottom-feeders playing out the string with expanded rosters.
It was entertaining. Long and, at times, not particularly well played. But entertaining. The Mariners held on for an 11-8 victory over the Oakland Athletics when Tom Wilhelmsen pitched a scoreless ninth.
This was a game of wild swings.
Oakland jumped to a 5-1 lead, but the Mariners answered with their biggest inning of the season — six runs and seven hits in the third, which chased Athletics starter Aaron Brooks.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
“There is so much more confidence (in our lineup), especially as of late,” said Kyle Seager, who had three of the Mariners’ 13 hits. “It’s been like this for a little while.
“The offense has been swinging it like we thought we should have been (doing) the whole year.”
Stefen Romero’s two-run homer in the fourth extended the Mariners’ advantage to 9-5 before the Athletics struck for three runs in the sixth against rookie Tony Zych and Mayckol Guaipe.
Then it was hold-on time.
Carson Smith stranded runners at the corners by getting the final out in the seventh inning and got two quick outs in the eighth before singles by Mark Canha and Brett Lawrie put runners at first and second for Danny Valencia.
Smith escaped again. Valencia struck out.
Seager provided the Mariners with some breathing space with a two-run homer in the ninth against Drew Pomeranz before Wilhelmsen made it 7-for-7 in save opportunities since reclaiming the closer’s job.
The Mariners have won three in a row and seven of their last 10.
The game started with an Oakland gift when shortstop Marcus Semien committed his 33rd error by bouncing a throw past Canha at first after fielding Ketel Marte’s grounder.
After a walk to Seager moved Marte to second, Franklin Gutierrez looked at three pitches for a strikeout. Robinson Cano ended the inning by grounding into a double play.
Oakland had the same two-on, no-out opportunity later in the inning against Mariners starter Edgar Olmos after Billy Burns led off with a single, and Seager bobbled Canha’s grounder to third for an error.
The Athletics didn’t waste it.
Brett Lawrie’s single through the left side loaded the bases before Valencia sent a 1-1 fastball over the right-field wall for a grand slam and a 4-0 lead.
The Mariners got one run back after Seth Smith opened the second inning with a walk. Logan Morrison’s single and a Brad Miller sacrifice fly produced the run.
Gutierrez didn’t return to the left field in the Oakland second due to what the Mariners characterized as tightness in his right groin. The Athletics then got the run back on Lowrie’s one-out RBI double, which finished Olmos.
Jose Ramirez, in his Mariners’ debut, got the final two outs in the second inning, which left Olmos with a line that included five runs and six hits in 1 1/3 innings.
Back came the Mariners. Marte and Seager started the third inning with successive doubles before Romero, in for Gutierrez, grounded an RBI single into center.
“I was just trying to move the runner over,” Romero said. “Fortunately, I hit a hard ground ball up the middle. It was a win-win. I got an RBI, and I moved the guy.”
Singles by Cano and Trumbo loaded the bases with one out and knocked out Brooks (1-2). When Morrison hit Pat Venditte’s first pitch for a two-run double, the Mariners were back to even at 5-5.
Miller’s slicing two-run double to left made it 7-5. The six runs and seven hits were each their season high for an inning.
“We have guys who have good track records,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I said that all along, that they were going to hit. Nobody really talks about (that) we’re averaging close to (five) runs a game since the break.”
The Mariners are, in fact, averaging 4.91 runs a game since the break after struggling at a 3.51 clip before the All-Star Game.
The Athletics changed pitchers in the fourth to Fernando Abad. It didn’t matter. Seager led off with a single before Romero crushed a first-pitch fastball for a homer and a 9-5 lead.
Zych replaced Ramirez (1-0) to start the fourth and made his major-league debut with two scoreless innings before giving up two hits to start the sixth.
Guaipe replaced Zych and served up a two-run triple to Semien and an infield single to Burns. That quickly, it was 9-8 with the tying run on base and no outs.
The Athletics didn’t score again.