SEATTLE – Jarred Kelenic stood outside the Seattle Mariners dugout with the crowd roaring and holding a placard with a phrase borrowed from a popular television show.
“Believe” has become Seattle's rallying call, and the Mariners are charging into the final weekend of the regular season with plenty of belief and right in the thick of the AL wild-card race.
“This is fun. This is the way it’s baseball supposed to be at this time of year and we still got a lot of big, big games ahead of us,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said.
The Mariners won for the 10th time in 11 games beating the Oakland Athletics 4-2 on Wednesday night, keeping the pressure on their fellow competitors for the two wild-card spots in the AL.
Seattle stayed a half-game behind Boston for the second wild-card slot and is 1½ games behind New York for the top spot, trying to end a 20-year drought since last reaching the postseason. The Mariners have an off day on Thursday before starting their final series of the regular season at home against the Los Angeles Angles.
“You want to be that guy that breaks that curse, or breaks the bad vibes over here,” Seattle's J.P. Crawford said. "You want to be remembered, to be a legend in this city.”
Ty France’s sacrifice fly in the seventh inning gave Seattle the lead and Abraham Toro added some cushion with his first home run since Aug. 31 with two outs in the eighth inning.
Seattle won its 12th straight game over Oakland, the longest win streak over a single team in franchise history, and in the process eliminated the A’s from postseason contention. The A’s had reached the playoffs in three straight years and six of the last nine.
“We expected to go to the postseason this year. We had our opportunities here down the stretch and we didn’t play well enough to get there. So guys are very disappointing,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.
The Mariners also delayed Houston from clinching the AL West for at least one more day. The Astros' magic number stayed at one.
France's sacrifice fly drove in Dylan Moore, who moved into scoring position thanks to a perfectly executed hit-and-run by Crawford. And while France barely missed a home run, Toro's drive carried over the wall for his 11th of the season.
And it was a window into Seattle’s promising future that set the stage for the late surge.
Rookie Logan Gilbert allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings in the biggest start of his young career to date. The 24-year-old scattered three hits, walked two and struck out four. Gilbert finished September with a 2.70 ERA in six starts.
And Kelenic, a fellow rookie, ripped a two-run double in the sixth inning to give Seattle the lead after managing just four baserunners against Oakland starter Frankie Montas through the first five innings.
“We surprised a lot of people that said we wouldn’t even be here right now and here we are,' Gilbert said. ”So the future is definitely bright here. But I also think right now is bright too. We have a real chance."
Seattle's bullpen was again solid, with the exception of Diego Castillo (5-5) allowing a solo homer to Seth Brown in the seventh inning. Paul Sewald worked around a two-out walk in the eighth inning and Drew Steckenrider pitched the ninth for his 13th save.
Andrew Chafin (2-4) took the loss for Oakland working the seventh inning. But it was sloppy errors by second baseman Tony Kemp and shortstop Josh Harrison in the sixth inning that provided the opportunity for Kelenic to come through with the double that gave Seattle a 2-1 lead.
“To not be able to make it this year when we all know the type of team we have ... it’s just tough for everybody not to be able to make the playoffs,” Montas said.
Kemp provided the only run off Gilbert with a homer leading off the sixth inning. But the 24-year-old rookie was able to otherwise keep the A's off the board despite having to rely almost entirely on his fastball.
Montas finished with 207 strikeouts for the season, second most in A's history. He also went 4-0 with 1.59 ERA over his final eight starts.
Athletics: INF Elvis Andrus underwent surgery in Arlington, Texas, to repair the broken left leg he suffered while scoring the winning run against the Astros last week. Andrus had an “internal fixation” to the fibula and a “tightrope” procedure to repair a sprain of the upper ankle. The team anticipates Andrus will be ready for the start of spring training next February. ... A’s manager Bob Melvin said the team hasn’t decided if RHP Chris Bassitt will pitch in the final series against Houston.
Athletics: Oakland will close out the regular season beginning Friday night at Houston. LHP Sean Manaea (10-10, 3.94) will start the opener.
Mariners: After an off day, Seattle opens its final series on Friday night against the Angels. LHP Marco Gonzales (10-5, 4.00) is scheduled to start the opener.
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