This is what the Mariners wanted — all they could ask for, really — in front of a sold-out crowd on a picturesque mid-September Saturday night at Safeco Field.
They had Felix Hernandez on the mound against reeling Oakland, an opponent he typically dominates, with a chance to grab a share of the lead for the American League’s top wild-card berth.
It ended in disaster.
The A’s outlasted Hernandez before capitalizing on Fernando Rodney’s inability to throw strikes for a 3-2 victory over the Mariners in 10 innings.
Rodney (1-6) walked four batters in the 10th inning, including Jed Lowrie with the bases loaded on four pitches.
The loss dropped the Mariners out of postseason position. They now trail Kansas City by one game for the American League’s second wild-card spot. They are 1 1/2 games behind the A’s for the top wild-card berth.
Luke Gregerson (5-4) got the victory for pitching a scoreless ninth inning in relief of Sonny Gray. Sean Doolittle got his 21st save by protecting the lead in the 10th inning.
There are lots of ways to lose games. Four walks in an inning are among the worst.
The Mariners turned to Rodney, their closer, in a tie game to start the 10th inning. And, boy, that didn’t work. He started by issuing a leadoff walk to Coco Crisp after jumping ahead 0-2 in the count.
When Crisp moved to second on Sam Fuld’s sacrifice, the Mariners opted to intentionally walk Josh Donaldson. The A’s then sent up Alberto Callaspo to pinch-hit for Jonny Gomes.
Callaspo walked, loading the bases with one out.
Rodney bounced his first two pitches to Brandon Moss, but catcher Mike Zunino blocked both. Rodney battled back for a strikeout but walked Lowrie on four pitches.
Josh Reddick ended the inning by lining out to short, but the A’s had the only run they needed.
The crowd of 43,913 was the Mariners’ second home sellout of the season. The other was April 8 in the home opener.
Hernandez settled for a no-decision after yielding two runs and seven hits in seven innings while striking out eight and walking none. He handed a 2-2 game to reliever Joe Beimel to start the eighth inning.
Gray went eight innings but also got a no-decision.
Beimel retired the first hitter before the Mariners turned to Tom Wilhelmsen. That’s when things got a tad dicey.
Wilhelmsen issued a walk to Donaldson, who had erased the Mariners’ 1-0 lead by lining a one-out homer against Hernandez in the sixth inning.
In came Charlie Furbush for a left-on-left matchup against Adam Dunn, which prompted a counter move. Gomes batted for Dunn.
Furbush struck out Gomes but walked Brandon Moss, which led to the inning’s fourth pitching change. Danny Farquhar replaced Furbush, which turned switch-hitter Jed Lowrie to the left side of the plate.
Lowrie struck out on three pitches.
The Mariners then mounted a threat when James Jones reached on a one-out single against Gray in the bottom of the inning.
Gray struck out Chris Taylor, but an errant pickoff throw moved Jones to second. But Austin Jackson, mired in a dreadful slump, struck out for the 10th time in a zero-for-14 drought.
Derek Norris’ one-out single in the ninth provided the A’s with a chance against Farquhar. The Mariners settled for a force at second on Eric Sogard’s grounder to second before Sogard stole second.
The Mariners challenged the call at second, and the replays reversed the call and ended the inning.
Hernandez carried a 1-1 game into the seventh and caught a break on a called strike on a full count against Lowrie to start the inning.
Reddick followed with a double into the left-center gap. A wild pitch moved Reddick to third but, with the infield pulled in, Norris struck out.
Sogard then lined a first-pitch fastball over short for an RBI single that gave Oakland a 2-1 lead. It was Sogard’s third hit of the game.
Sogard stole second base before taking third on another Hernandez wild pitch before Crisp struck out.
The Mariners answered two pitches into the bottom of the inning when Robinson Cano crushed a 1-0 change-up from Gray for a no-doubt homer to right.
The A’s came out swinging against Hernandez.
Crisp lined the game’s first pitch into center for a single, but Hernandez retired the next three hitters — on four pitches.
The Mariners’ second ended when Logan Morrison, after a one-out walk, veered way out of the baseline on his slide at second base on Mike Zunino’s grounder to second.
Lowrie didn’t throw to first, but Zunino was declared out.
Jones opened the Mariners’ third with a triple over Crisp’s head in center. Oakland shortened its infield, but it wouldn’t have mattered; Taylor grounded a hard single up the middle.
The Mariners led 1-0.
It stayed that way until Donaldson pulled the A’s even by blasting a 1-0 offering from Hernandez for a one-out homer in the sixth inning.
Felix Hernandez made his 300th career start Saturday and is the only active pitcher to make 300 starts with his current club. Mark Buehrle, now with Toronto, made 365 starts for the Chicago White Sox earlier in his career. The Mariners’ record for starts by a pitcher is 323 by Jamie Moyer … First baseman Logan Morrison, prior to Saturday, was batting .295 (36 for 122) in his last 37 games … The Mariners declared Saturday’s game to be a sellout more than two hours before the first pitch. They said about 12,000 tickets remain for Sunday’s series finale.
The Mariners and A’s conclude their three-game series at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at Safeco Field.
Right-hander Chris Young (12-7 with a 3.35 ERA) will seek his first victory since Aug. 17 when he opposes Oakland lefty and Bellarmine Prep alumnus Jon Lester (13-10, 2.54). Root Sports will televise the game.
After the game, the Mariners depart on their final road trip: 11 games; four games against the Angels in Anaheim, three at Houston and four at Toronto.
The Mariners then conclude the regular season Sept. 26-28 with three home games against the Angels.