Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge has embraced the opportunity for his club to impact the AL West and wild-card races, relishing each game in a playoff-type atmosphere.
He’d only be happier if his Mariners made a more positive mark.
Brandon Moss hit a three-run homer in the 10th inning after Josh Donaldson’s tying two-run shot in the ninth, and the Oakland Athletics gained ground on the first-place Texas Rangers with a stunning 7-4 win over the Mariners on Saturday.
”Those guys are feeling it over there,” Wedge said. ”The fans are feeling it. Obviously the players are feeling it. You can sense the excitement in the air, and it’s great for our guys to be playing in that environment. You have to finish games off. We just weren’t able to do that today.”
Few teams have in extra innings in Oakland this season.
Coco Crisp singled off Oliver Perez (1-3) leading off the final inning for his fourth hit. Stephen Pryor entered with one out and walked Yoenis Cespedes on four pitches.”
Moss hammered the first pitch against Pryor well over the wall in right for his 21st home run, sending Oakland (90-68) streaming out of the dugout to celebrate its major-league leading 14th walk-off win.
”What hurts us is that lead-off walk,” Wedge said. ”Now you bring the tying run into the game and then he hung a breaking ball. His stuff’s good. That’s the type of closer that we want and he’s going to be. It just didn’t work out for us today.”
The A’s are 2 1/2 games back of Texas in the division and 2 1/2 ahead of the Los Angeles Angels for the final wild card. The Angels-Rangers game Saturday in Texas was postponed by inclement weather, and the teams will play a doubleheader Sunday. Tampa Bay also is three games behind Oakland.
Oakland hosts Texas in the final three games of the season starting Monday. If the Angels lose the doubleheader and Tampa Bay falls in its finale at the Chicago White Sox, the A’s could clinch at least the wild card with a win Sunday.
”Our mind is still focused on trying to go after the division,” Donaldson said. ”Every game out there is the biggest game of the year for us. That’s the way it’s been for the last month.”
Considering the way the A’s have played since the All-Star break, no goal seems silly anymore.
Donaldson’s drive off Tom Wilhelmsen in the ninth landed just over the wall in center field for his ninth home run to start Oakland’s latest rally. Grant Balfour (3-2) pitched a perfect inning to earn the win.
With each game becoming bigger than the last, the A’s have shown no signs of a young team overwhelmed by the pressure.
Players tossed a football around during batting practice. Right fielder Josh Reddick even wore a camouflage shirt and punted the ball in flip-flops.
The laid-back approach carried over again – just not right away.
Dan Straily allowed four runs, four walks and three hits in 4 1-3 innings while striking out three, though he ended up jumping over the couch in the clubhouse watching Donaldson’s homer, admitting he was so excited ”I have no idea how I got there.” His bullpen backed him up, though, with five relievers tossing scoreless ball.
John Jaso walked leading off the second inning and took advantage of a pair of errors for Seattle’s first run.
Justin Smoak grounded out to Moss, who stepped on first base and threw the ball into left field. Cespedes tried to throw out Jaso at third and instead sailed the ball into Oakland’s dugout, allowing Jaso to score and give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
”It almost hit our Purell container in the dugout. That would have bothered me,” A’s manager Bob Melvin could joke later. ”I use that quite often in the dugout. It just hit the water cooler. That would have been really devastating if it knocked over the Purell container. We can take a run there, we just don’t want to lose that.”
Kyle Seager hit a solo shot over the wall in center and Michael Saunders lined a two-run homer to right to put Seattle ahead 4-0 in the fourth. It was the 19th home run for each this season.
Cespedes singled and scored from first on Moss’ single in the bottom of the inning. Cespedes was stealing second on the play, and his hesitation around third base fooled right fielder Casper Wells just enough to slide in safely and slice Seattle’s lead to 4-1.
Once again, Jason Vargas quieted the A’s.
He struck out seven and walked none in seven innings. The lefty is 2-1 and has allowed only 10 runs in six starts against Oakland this season.
Moss also doubled in the eighth against Wilhelmsen to score Crisp and Stephen Drew was waived home from first by third base Mike Gallego. Second baseman Dustin Ackley’s relay throw from Wells in right easily got Drew out at home to end the inning and leave the possible tying run stranded at second.
Moss made a diving grab to rob pinch-hitter Jesus Montero for the final out of Seattle’s ninth to save at least a run and set the stage for another thriller he would finish.
”Epic,” Melvin said. ”It’s a pretty dramatic win, maybe as dramatic as all.”
NOTES: Wilhelmsen has blown five saves in 34 chances this season. … Mariners CF Franklin Gutierrez returned after sitting out Friday with a stiff neck from crashing into the wall against the Angels on Thursday. He finished 0 for 5. … Lefty Tommy Milone (13-10, 3.74 ERA) starts for Oakland opposite Mariners RHP Erasmo Ramirez (1-3, 3.42 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale.