Mariners notes: postseason looms, but another loss means hopes for top wild card dwindle

Jason Redmond/AP

Seattle snapped its 21-year postseason drought Friday, though odds of earning the league’s top wild card allocation – guaranteeing the Mariners home games in the playoffs – are dwindling.

A 10-3 blowout loss to Oakland on Sunday made things worse.

The last-place Athletics jumped on starting pitcher Robbie Ray for six runs and three home runs at T-Mobile Park. Meanwhile, Oakland starter James Kaprellian took a no-hitter into the sixth inning.

“Today just wasn’t our day,” manager Scott Servais said.

Seattle’s offense mustered only five hits in response, failing to sweep Oakland in their final meeting of the campaign.

An announced attendance of 42,465 packed T-Mobile Park to near-full levels for a third straight game – but lacked much of the noise.

With less to celebrate, the home crowd fell particularly silent when Oakland’s Nick Allen poked a two-run homer to left in the sixth, just out of left fielder Jesse Winker’s reach. Then emerged Servais from the dugout – Ray’s outing was over.

The blast gave the A’s a 6-0 lead while the Mariners searched for their first hit. First baseman Ty France eventually broke up the no-no with a two-out single in the sixth.

Ray allowing six runs (and five earned) while walking three and striking out three. Oakland jumped for four more in the ninth, featuring Shea Langeliers’ second home run of the game.

“They were definitely aggressive,” Ray said. “It’s a game of inches. I’ve just got to be better.”

Jesse Winker’s three-run home run to right in the ninth wiped away Oakland’s shutout.

Seattle owns a tiebreaker over Toronto in the wild card race, though time is running out.

Toronto (90-69) handled Boston on Sunday, 6-3, now in possession of a two and a half game cushion for the league’s top wild card spot.

Of the American League’s three wild card spots, only the top seed hosts home games in the postseason’s first round.

“We still have a chance to host a wild card game, and we want to give ourselves every opportunity to do that,” Servais said. “I think it’s a huge advantage to play (wild card) games at home. Anybody that says it’s not… you’re crazy.

“If you were here (Friday) night, you’d see the advantage that could be in this ballpark for us.”

Tampa Bay (86-73) clinched a postseason berth Friday but lost consecutive games over the weekend, now settled in the third wild card spot. That pushed the Mariners into the second wild card (and fifth overall seed) on their own.

With only four games against Detroit remaining in the regular season, the Mariners need at least three wins to remain in contention for the first wild card. Toronto could clinch the top allocation with a pair of wins over Baltimore this week.

Seattle would host Toronto in the first round, assuming they rally for the top allocation. If Seattle finishes with the second spot — where they are now — they would travel to Toronto.

A collapse into the third spot would send the Mariners to Cleveland for a three-game wild card series with the Guardians from Oct. 7-9.

“We’re trying to fight our way to host a playoff game here, but we need some help along the way,” Servais said. “We’re almost to the point where we need to win out.

“We certainly do now.”

PERFECT TIMING FOR O’KEEFE’S DEBUT

Few players experience Brian O’Keefe’s call-up story. His Friday night ended with champagne showers and Seattle’s first postseason berth since 2001.

The script could have been written in Hollywood.

Seattle’s newest face, the 29-year-old catcher from Triple-A Tacoma, received the life-changing phone call from senior director of baseball operations Andy McKay on Thursday, after the Mariners placed catcher Curt Casali on the paternity list.

“There’s a lot of players that play in this league for six, eight, ten years, and never get the chance (to play in the postseason). And then there’s Brian O’Keefe, who shows up one day, and they’re here,” Servais said Friday, sarcastically. “Timing is everything.”

O’Keefe replied with a simple “thank you,” unable to find more words. He called his parents, and then his fiancee, crying.

And that was only the beginning. Cal Raleigh launched Friday night’s pinch-hit, walk-off homer to end Seattle’s playoff drought, and by Saturday, O’Keefe was set to make his first major league plate appearance in Seattle’s lineup.

“I don’t think you could script a better first two days in the big leagues,” he told reporters Saturday.

O’Keefe struck out looking in Saturday’s first at-bat, offered a healthy dosage of sliders by Oakland pitcher JP Sears.

But he remained stubborn, still hunting fastballs in his second try. On the first pitch of the fifth inning, he caught a changeup in front that landed in left field for leadoff single. It marked his first career major league hit in Saturday’s 5-1 win over Oakland, and a postgame beer shower ensued — customary for any player celebrating such a feat.

“I waited a long time for this, and to do this in front of my family was extremely special,” O’Keefe said Saturday. “To do it on a team that hasn’t made the postseason in 21 years… to be there for that night when we clinched, and today, the fans, the atmosphere, just absolutely incredible.”

ON DECK

Seattle hosts Detroit in a four-game series beginning Monday. The set features a single-ticket Tuesday doubleheader, starting at 3:40 p.m.

“We do get one extra pitcher for the doubleheader, and we will take advantage of that. That guy will pitch, I can guarantee you that,” Servais said.

After Thursday’s off-day, the postseason begins.

Game one of Seattle’s three-game wild card series – the location is to be determined – is Oct. 7. Game two is scheduled for Saturday, and a decisive rubber match would be Sunday, if necessary.

The higher seed hosts all three games.