Mathematically, it’s not yet over for the Mariners after Tuesday’s 10-7 loss to Texas Rangers at Safeco Field. But if it’s not dark yet, it’s getting there.
The Mariners, by losing, now find themselves six games behind Baltimore in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth with, now, just 24 games remaining to leap past four other clubs to catch the Orioles.
It’s been 21 years since the 1995 Mariners mustered their remarkable September run.
And, yes, they were just two games over .500, like the current club, as late as late as Sept. 8. And they were six games behind first-place California as late as Sept. 12. (They caught the Angels.)
But that ’95 club trailed by just one-half game in the wild-card standings — there was only one wild card then — on the morning of Sept. 7. So the postseason hill wasn’t nearly as steep then as it is now.
The Mariners, as they did last week in Texas, are getting an up-close look at the gap between themselves and a postseason club. The Rangers now own a 12-5 edge in the season series.
"We could never quite get out in front of it," manager Scott Servais said. "Our offense did a great job of getting after it. We were one hit away a couple of times from getting the lead and getting out in front of it.
"We just couldn’t do it."
Another problem: Robinson Cano left the game in the seventh inning because of swelling in his ankle, which resulted from a foul ball earlier in the game.
"I hope he’s OK (Wednesday)," Servais said. "Speed is not a big part of his game, but mobility at second base, moving around and covering the ground there is really important."
On Tuesday, the two clubs traded punches over the first three innings before Texas took command. The Rangers finished with 15 hits, including seven doubles and two homers.
Shortstop Elvis Andrus led the assault with three doubles and a homer. He also made two errors. The Mariners kept rallying but, each time, the Rangers had an answer.
"That’s a really good offensive team," third baseman Kyle Seager said. "We weren’t able to quite catch up, but we didn’t help ourselves either. They got some runs on my error (in the second inning). That can’t happen."
Jonathan Lucroy’s two-run homer in the fifth inning broke a 4-4 tie and knocked Mariners starter James Paxton (4-6) out of the game.
It was Lucroy’s ninth homer in 28 games since being acquired from Milwaukee in an Aug. 1 trade.
"That was a first-pitch change-up," Paxton said. "I just left it up over the plate. I thought I’d get him out in front, but he was on it. It caught too too much of the plate."
Paxton lasted 4 1/3 innings and was dominant at times in striking out eight. But he had a few problems with the torn fingernail that derailed his previous start.
"We had to stop throwing the cutter because that was a lot of pressure on the finger," he said. "We just went with the fastball, change-up and curveball. We’ll see if that’s going to be the issue the next time out."
But Paxton threw 103 pitches while recording only 13 outs and gave up nine hits. Drew Storen replaced Paxton and gave up another run on a pair of doubles.
"Our offense has done a great job against the starters we’ve been facing," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Being able to get us some professional at-bats…really grinding at-bats up and down the lineup."
Texas extended its lead to 8-4 when Andrus started the seventh with an upper-deck homer to left field against Arquimedes Caminero, who then walked the bases loaded before David Rollins stranded all three runners.
Rangers lefty Martin Perez (10-10) gave up four runs (two earned) in six innings before reliever Jake Diekman tried to let the Mariners back into the game.
The Mariners loaded the bases with no outs on a single, a double and a walk before Keone Kela replaced Diekman. Kela forced in a run by walking Dae-Ho Lee, which also got the go-ahead run to the plate.
Leonys Martin’s sacrifice fly made it 8-6, but Kela retired the next two batters. Texas then got one run back in the eighth on Andrus’ fourth hit, an RBI double against Steve Cishek.
Seth Smith’s pinch homer in the eighth against Matt Bush, and the Mariners got the tying run to the plate. But third baseman Adrian Beltre stemmed the rally with a marvelous play on a hard Nelson Cruz grounder.
Texas countered that run, too, when Lucroy drew a bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning against Pat Venditte.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Texas second baseman Rougned Odor ran down Shawn O’Malley’s leadoff pop in the sixth inning along the foul line in short right field.
First baseman Mitch Moreland and right fielder Nomar Mazara were also positioned to make the catch.
Rewind to the Texas fifth when Carlos Gomez lifted a similar pop to roughly the same spot with two outs and a runner on second.
The ball fell for an RBI double between right fielder Franklin Gutierrez, first baseman Dae-Ho Lee and second baseman Robinson Cano.
Look for Mariners to prioritize an upgrade to the roster’s athleticism in the coming off-season.
PLUS: Robinson Cano’s single in the seventh inning extended his hitting streak to 10 games. It is the 30th streak of 10 or more games in his 12-year career. Cano’s career-best streak was 23 games in 2012 while playing for the Yankees…Kyle Seager hit his 26th homer, which matched a career high set last year. He also had a double and a walk in five plate appearances.
MINUS: Kyle Seager’s error in the second inning led to two unearned runs. He has a career-worst 21 errors, which is the highest total in either league among third basemen. Two years ago, he made just eight in 157 games when he won a Gold Glove for defensive excellence…the Mariners used five relievers, and four allowed a run. The exception, Steve Cishek, gave up a double that permitted an inherited runner to score.
STAT PACK: James Paxton, in the first, became the fourth pitcher in club history to strike out four batters in an inning. The others were Matt Young (1990), Kazuhiro Sasaki (2003) and Felix Hernandez (2010).
QUOTABLE: "We threw everything we had at them," manager Scott Servais said. "It just wasn’t enough to slow them down."
SHORT HOPS: The game lasted 3 hours, 44 minutes, which made it the longest nine-inning game this season at Safeco Field…Adrian Beltre set a Texas record by scoring a run in his 12th straight game…Leonys Martin leads the Mariners with seven sacrifice flies.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners