Well, what next?
Taijuan Walker delivered a marvelous performance Wednesday, but it still wasn’t sufficient to stem the Mariners’ late-season collapse in a 1-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre.
Walker matched Toronto veteran Mark Buehrle with zeroes until Ryan Goins delivered a two-out RBI double in the eighth inning that scored Munenori Kawasaki from first base with the game’s only run.
Buehrle (13-10) departed after Chris Taylor’s leadoff single in the ninth inning on a sharp grounder past shortstop Jose Reyes.
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Aaron Sanchez replaced Buehrle and picked off pinch-runner James Jones. Sanchez then closed out the Mariners’ fifth straight loss.
The Mariners’ postseason hopes now hang by a thread; they trail Oakland by three games with four games remaining in the battle for the American League’s final wild-card berth.
This was, perhaps, the toughest loss of them all.
After a succession of four straight dreadful starts, the Mariners got a showcase effort from Walker, who had not pitched more than six innings in any of his seven previous career starts.
It just wasn’t good enough.
The Mariners won a challenge to start the eighth inning after first-base umpire Doug Eddings ruled first baseman Kendrys Morales failed to tag Dalton Pompey on a bunt up the first-base line.
Replays showed Morales applied the tag.
Perhaps the delay affected Walker (2-3) because he then walked Kawasaki on four pitches before striking out Anthony Gose.
Goins followed and worked the count full before flicking a drive into short center field, which dropped between three Mariners.
The ball caromed high off the turf, which permitted Kawasaki — who was running on the pitch — to score from first.
Buehrle retired the Mariners in order over the first two innings, but Corey Hart opened the third with a slicing fly that bounced into the right-field seats for a double.
The Blue Jays challenged the call, but replays confirmed it hit inside the line before going into the stands.
The Mariners couldn’t convert the opportunity. Hart held second on Mike Zunino’s grounder to third, went to third on Taylor’s fly to right but go no farther when Austin Jackson took a third strike.
Walker matched Buehrle through the early innings by retiring 12 of Toronto’s first 13 batters.
Dustin Ackley opened the fourth inning with a single to first by outracing Buehrle to the base. Buehrle then bounced the ball hard off the turf in irritation.
That also came to nothing.
Robinson Cano popped to short before Morales grounded into double play.
Walker had retired 11 in a row when Dioner Navarro opened the Toronto fifth inning with a liner into the right-field corner. Logan Morrison played the carom well and held Navarro to a single.
That proved a key defensive play because, after Dalton Pompey popped to second, Walker ended the inning by getting Munenori Kawasaki to ground into a double play.
Buehrle opened the sixth inning by walking Zunino, who went to second on a Taylor sacrifice. Again, nothing. Jackson struck out on a check swing, and Ackley took a third strike.
When Buehrle completed the inning, he reached 200 for the 14th straight season.