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Originally published September 27, 2014 at 11:47 PM | Page modified September 28, 2014 at 7:56 PM

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This playoff atmosphere new territory for many Mariners

After a night of exquisite tension, of heart-rending disappointment, of near-agony and ultimate exhilaration, the Mariners live to play another day with postseason hopes still intact.


Seattle Times columnist

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All the Mariners wanted was one last chance, and they got it. But that factual statement does a disservice to one of the most riveting nights of baseball seen at Safeco Field in a long while.

After a night of exquisite tension, of heart-rending disappointment, of near-agony and ultimate exhilaration, the Mariners live to play another day with postseason hopes still intact.

Somehow, someway.

They found out in the seventh inning that the door was still cracked open. That’s when word filtered out to the team, and then the fans, that the A’s had lost in Texas.

“We have all the technology underneath,’’ laughed Lloyd McClendon. “We got it real quick.”

Against all odds, hope lived. The playoff dream, which seemingly died in a swirl of defeats in Houston and Toronto, was still possible.

All the Mariners needed to do, at that point, was beat the Angels. Beat the Angels, and Game 162 mattered. Beat the Angels, and Felix Hernandez gets his chance at redemption Sunday. Beat the Angels, and watch the pressure clamp even further around the throats of the cascading A’s.

All night, the Mariners had played in a kind of surreal world in which they didn’t know if their game would even matter in the end. That would be the case only if Oakland lost to the Rangers, and surely it was too much to ask for the A’s to oblige yet again.

But they did, falling 5-4 to a Texas team that has been aiding and abetting the Seattle playoff drive down the stretch by taking down Oakland, again and again. And on this fraught Saturday night, they obliged the Mariners again.

And the Mariners responded with a 2-1 victory rife with opportunities squandered by Seattle until finally, three of the players who had fallen short in the clutch earlier — Brad Miller, Chris Taylor and Austin Jackson — conspired to push across the winning run in the 11th inning.

“That’s how baseball works. It’s funny like that,’’ said Miller. “When you don’t come through, the ball will find you again. I hope I’m in the same situation tomorrow.”

Miller, who had struck out in the ninth with the bases loaded and no outs, started the inning with a double. Taylor, who struck out twice with the go-ahead run at third, singled Miller to third. And he came home on a roller to second by Jackson, who just barely beat the return throw for what would have been an inning-ending double play.

“It felt like that play took about an hour and a half,’’ McClendon said. “My heart stopped two or three times.”

He wasn’t alone. The evening just bristled with tension, every Angels hit or Mariner out or, across the country, Oakland rally portending doom.

When Logan Morrison’s RBI double erased the Angels’ 1-0 lead, the game, already intense, took on a playoff atmosphere, with the crowd of 32,716 playing their part to the hilt.

“It was different,’’ said Kyle Seager. “Just so loud, so much energy in the park. You could feel it. Feel it every pitch. It was awesome tonight.”

“That was absolutely electric tonight,’’ added Miller.

The Mariners had the game won in the ninth, but somehow couldn’t convert a bases-loaded, no-out situation into a run. They stranded two more in the 10th.

“Listen, obviously, you’re on edge,’’ McClendon said. “The players are giving everything they’ve got — probably trying too hard in certain situations.”

This is new territory, after all, for many of the Mariners, and McClendon believes they will adapt as they experience the pressure of meaningful baseball. Already, the Mariners have made up two games on Oakland in the past three days.

“They’ll all be better as result of it,’’ McClendon said. “Until you’ve been in those situations, with everything on the line, and the season on the line, you don’t really know how they’ll feel. I’m not too old to remember how they feel.”

And now the Mariners need to make up one more game Sunday to force a tiebreaker with the A’s on Monday to try to get into the wild-card playoff game Tuesday for a shot at a spot in the Division Series against the Angels on Thursday.

Simple enough, right? It comes down to the A’s losing one more, and the Mariners winning behind, wouldn’t you know it, Felix Hernandez. Their ace had a rough outing in Toronto last time out, but has another chance in what again will be the biggest game he’ll have ever pitched.

“That’s what we planned,’’ McClendon said. “I expect Felix to be Felix, and do the best he can for as long as he can. We’ll see what happens. All I know, we’re still in the ring. We’re still throwing punches.”

Closing the gap
Even with their recent 5-12 stretch, the Mariners have been able to make up 10 games on the Athletics in the past 45 games.
TeamRecord on Aug. 9Record since
Athletics72-4415-30
Mariners61-5525-20


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About Larry Stone

Larry Stone gives his take on the local and national sports scene.
lstone@seattletimes.com

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