SEATTLE — See you Sunday because maybe, just maybe, the Mariners have some magic left in their improbable postseason quest after Saturday’s pulsating 2-1 walk-off victory over the Los Angeles Angels in 11 innings.
Austin Jackson beat out a potential double-play grounder to second base with one out, which Brad Miller to score the winning run from third base and sent the crowd at Safeco Field into a towel-waving bedlam.
And here we are:
The victory pulled the Mariners to within one game of fast-fading Oakland in the battle for the American League’s final Wild Card berth with one game remaining in the regular season.
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“This is the best,” Jackson said. “This is the best right here. This brings out the best in teams. We’re fired up, and we stayed fired up the whole game.”
If the Mariners win Sunday, and the A’s lose again at Texas, then that Wild Card berth will hinge on a play-in game Monday between the Mariners and A’s at Safeco.
And the Mariners have Felix Hernandez in line to start Sunday against Angels right-hander Cory Rasmus.
“We’ve got the best guy in the league on the mound,” Miller said. “We’ve got to take care of our business, but it’s where you want to be. Right here, playing game 162 and you’re still in it.”
The end came loaded with redemption.
Miller struck out with the bases loaded in the ninth inning but started the winning rally against Mike Morin (4-4) with a one-out double to right.
Chris Taylor, who also struck out with the bases loaded in the ninth, followed with a bloop single to center that moved Miller to third.
“That’s how baseball works,” Miller said. “It’s funny like that. We were so pumped that we got to finish it off right there.”
As they did in the ninth, the Angels shifted to a five-infielder alignment. They also replaced Morin with Vinnie Pestano to face Jackson, who had ended that ninth-inning threat with a fly to right.
When Jackson sent a soft grounder to second, Grant Green hesitated for just an instant before opting to try for a double play rather than a play at the plate.
“You have to be decisive,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He was a little bit indecisive, and he set his feet for (a throw) home and decided to go for two.”
It was all Jackson needed.
“All I thought was `run,’” he said. “As hard as you can. Let it all hang out. I almost thought about diving. I’ve never dove at first, but I almost did it.”
Soon thereafter, the Mariners mobbed Jackson just beyond first base.
“This is pretty cool,” third baseman Kyle Seager said. “Games like tonight with the crowd, the emotions, the whole thing. It was special.”
Dominic Leone (8-2) got the victory after pitching around Chris Iannetta’s check-swing leadoff single past first base in the LA 11th.
The Angels, who have already clinched the AL’s best record, played the last few innings with several reserves after pulling most of their starters in the seventh and eighth.
But oh…that missed chance in the ninth: Seager led off with a squib single up the third-base line against reliever Jason Grilli, who then walked Logan Morrison.
It was Morrison who erased a 1-0 deficit with an RBI double in the seventh inning. The Mariners replaced Seager at second base with James Jones, which soon paid a huge dividend.
When Endy Chavez put down a sacrifice bunt, Iannetta tried for the out at third — but the throw was late.
Bases loaded with no outs.
The Angels aligned their defense with five infielders (and two outfielders) as Miller pinch-hit for Jesus Sucre. All five infielders played in.
Miller took a borderline strike on a 3-2 pitch before Taylor struck out on three pitches. That allowed the Angels to return to a normal defensive alignment.
Grilli fell behind Jackson 3-0 before throwing two strikes. Jackson fouled off the next pitch before flying out to right.
They all got another chance.
“We definitely had a lot of opportunities — me, specifically speaking,” Jackson said. “I definitely had some chances…Our pitching gave us a chance the whole time. They kept us in the game.”
Both starters, James Paxton and C.J. Wilson, got no-decisions.
Paxton bounced back from a rough start in Toronto by limiting the Angels to one run and four hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Wilson carried a 1-0 lead into the seventh but yielded a leadoff walk to Seager. It was at that point that word reached Safeco from Texas that the Rangers had held on for a 5-4 victory over Oakland.
Morrison followed with an RBI double into the right-center gap.
And Safeco erupted.
“You tell yourself to stay loose and relaxed; calm,” Morrison said. “Then you hit a double that scores Seager, and you’re so jacked up and excited. The adrenaline that was running through my body was unbelievable.
“You see those guys in the dugout going nuts. Fans waving the towels. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Only there is more. At least one day more.