And so it continues.
The Mariners extended baseball’s longest postseason drought Saturday night with a rousing but ultimately wrenching 9-8 loss to Oakland in 10 innings that officially eliminated them from the wild-card chase.
Joey Wendle’s one-out double into the right-center gap against Edwin Diaz (0-4) provided the Athletics with the winning run.
It’s been an uphill quest for the Mariners over the closing weeks, but they fueled hope with an 18-9 run through September, including seven victories in their previous nine games.
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That got them close. But only close.
Like Saturday, when the Mariners erased a series of deficits in the closing innings before it slipped away. Their postseason drought is now 15 years since their magical 116-victory season in 2001.
"It was a great (stretch) run," designated hitter Nelson Cruz said. "We were six (games) out. Eight out. And we found a way to bounce back. There are a lot of good things to talk about.
"But at the same time, we have to understand we (fell short). Everybody knows what they need to do to get better. Just a little bit better. So we don’t fight for the wild card. We should fight for the (American League) West."
Bruce Maxwell opened the Oakland 10th inning with a double to left against Diaz, who had entered the game with two outs in the eighth inning.
After Chad Pinder replaced Maxwell as a pinch-runner, Matt Olson struck out before Wendle ripped an RBI double into the right-center gap. It was Wendle’s fourth hit of the game.
And it was enough.
"That’s it for the season," Diaz said. "We had a great season. We battled up and down and came close. We almost made it."
Oakland closer Ryan Madson (6-7) worked around Ben Gamel’s leadoff single in closing out the victory.
Gamel moved to second on a wild pitch, but Madson set down the heart of the Mariners’ lineup: Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.
And it was over.
It probably shouldn’t have been this close.
The Mariners put themselves in a hole when (a) usually steady Hisashi Iwakuma spewed up a poor start in lasting just 3 2/3 innings and (b) a bullpen that had a 1.76 ERA since Sept. 7 couldn’t prevent the Athletics from playing add-on.
"Our bullpen is on fumes," manager Scott Servais said. "You saw it tonight. Guys are giving everything they had, but they were quite getting the ball where it needed to be."
Steve Cishek got two quick outs in the eighth inning after Cruz’s two-run homer capped a three-run seventh that pulled the Mariners even at 7-7.
Cishek gave up an 0-2 single to Wendle on a sharp single back through the box. Cishek then made an errant pickoff throw that permitted Wendle to reach third.
Marcus Semien followed with a drive into the left-center gap that hopped the wall for an RBI double. It was Semien’s fourth hit and, it loomed as a knockout punch…
Until the Mariners mounted a two-out rally later in the inning against Ryan Dull and pulled even again on Gamel’s two-out RBI single.
Saturday became a must-win game for the Mariners once Toronto closed out a victory at Boston. The Mariners built an early 2-0 lead and, after Iwakuma gave up five runs, found themselves continually climbing uphill.
"It’s frustrating," Iwakuma said. "It’s very disappointing, too. We came this far. Coming down to this game and losing it by not being able to pitch my game is very frustrating."
The Mariners trailed 7-4 when Nori Aoki opened the seventh inning with a double against Oakland reliever Sean Doolittle. A one-out single by Cano scored Aoki.
Cruz followed with a two-run homer to center, and the Mariners were back even. And at that moment, the crowd of 29,522 at Safeco Field turned Seattle into a baseball town.
Earlier, the Mariners trailed 5-2 in the fifth inning when Cano launched a two-run homer that knocked out Oakland starter Jharel Cotton.
It was Cano’s 39th homer of the season, which extended a career high, and it brought the crowd back to life — for the first time.
Oakland blunted the Mariners’ momentum at that point by scoring once in the sixth inning on Wendle’s RBI single against Vidal Nuno, which pushed the lead back to two runs at 6-4.
Nick Vincent then yielded a one-out homer to Khris Davis in the seventh inning that boosted the lead to 7-4. It was No. 42 for Davis, and it came on a booming blast to straightaway center field.
The Mariners got it all back in the seventh. And in the eighth. But not in the 10th.
"It was a great run," Servais said. "In my mind, a successful season. We laid the foundation here on how we’re going to do things moving forward. And we’ll build on it…
"It doesn’t make it any easier tonight, losing a ballgame like that."
PLAY OF THE GAME: Center fielder Leonys Martin nearly got to Khris Davis’ deep one-out drive into the right-center gap with two runners on base in the third inning.
Nearly but not quite. A perfect metaphor for the Mariners’ season. The ball bounced over the wall for a game-tying double. The Athletics then took the lead on Yonder Alonso’s two-run double.
The Mariners never led again.
PLUS: Outfielder Ben Gamel entered the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning but went 2-for-2 with a game-tying RBI in the eighth innings. He had just five hits in 25 previous at-bats…Mike Freeman had a pinch double that led to the tying run in the eighth inning…Nori Aoki went 2-for-5 with a walk in six plate appearances…reliever Evan Scribner retired the only two batters he faced and now has 14 scoreless innings in 12 appearances since being activated Sept. 1 from the 60-day disabled list.
MINUS: Rookie closer Edwin Diaz is hitting a wall. He has allowed five runs and 10 hits over 6 2/3 innings in his last five outings…Steve Cishek gave up his first run since Aug. 30. While the run was unearned, it was deserved. It was his two-base throwing errors on a pickoff play that made it an unearned run…Mike Zunino was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts…shortstop Ketel Marte committed his 21st error.
STAT PACK: The Mariners went 8-1 this year in Oakland but are 4-5 against the Athletics at Safeco Field.
QUOTABLE: "I’ve only been a Mariner for a year," manager Scott Servais said, "but I have to believe that will go down as one of the more memorable games in Mariners history. Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way."
SHORT HOPS: The Mariners are 9-8 in extra-inning games, 30-29 in one-run games and 38-37 against American League West opponents…the Mariners were 3-for-18 with runners in scoring position…the Mariners had won seven straight against Oakland prior to Saturday’s loss…the game lasted 4 hours, 1 minute. It was the sixth time this year that a Mariners’ game topped four hours.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners