Mariners 6, Athletics 3
(Oakland, CA) One last tune up for the Seattle Mariners came on Wednesday before ending the season with what amounts to ten playoff games before the postseason even begins. In their final showdown of 2023 with the Oakland Athletics, the Mariners were looking to punctuate their dominant season against Oakland with a sweep to bounce back from being swept over the weekend. Mission accomplished for Seattle as they took care of business and got a quality outing from a recently struggling George Kirby as the Mariners finished off the sweep with a 6-3 win.
A double by Cal Raleigh and an error by Oakland third baseman Jordan Diaz wouldn’t be enough to get the Mariners on the board in the opening inning but they’d get another crack in the 2nd. With one out, Ty France would hit a grounder to Diaz at third and again the young infielder would boot it for his second error in as many innings. That brought up Dominic Canzone and he made sure Oakland would pay for it this time. Canzone turned on a cutter on the inner third and absolutely demolished it. The ball would jump off Canzone’s bat with a 111.6-mph exit velocity and traveled 448-feet for one of the longest home runs by a Mariner this season. The two-run bomb by Canzone was his sixth of the season and gave the Mariners a 2-0 lead.
Home runs ended up being a pretty big story in the finale as both teams got their fair share of long balls. In the bottom of the 4th, it was Oakland’s turn to circle the bases. Zack Gelof has been Oakland’s best player since being called up in mid-July as he looks to be a centerpiece of the future of the franchise. He flashed his skills once again as Gelof sent his 13th home run of the season over Julio’s glove in center for a solo shot off of George Kirby. Oakland all of a sudden had some momentum and they were back in the game trailing 2-1.
Two batters into the top of the 5th, Seattle had gotten that run back plus one. Leading off the inning, Julio Rodriguez decided since he couldn’t rob the home run, he might as well hit one of his own. J-Rod drove one out to right center that cleared the high wall for his 31st home run of the season. It also gave Julio his 100th RBI of the season which makes him just the third player under 22-years-old to have a season with 30+ home runs, 100+ RBI, and 30+ stolen bases, joining Alex Rodriguez and Ronald Acuña Jr. He would not be the only one celebrating as Cal Raleigh followed in Julio’s footsteps as the two went back-to-back. Cal set a new Mariner record for extra base hits by a Mariner catcher in a single season but he continued to build on his single season home run record by a Mariner catcher. The 29th home run of the season for Raleigh cleared the wall in right field as in the blink of an eye, Seattle had breathing room with a 4-1 lead.
If that wasn’t good enough, the Mariners still weren’t done in the top of the 5th. Eugenio Suarez doubled and Ty France was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with two outs. That ended the day for the debuting Joey Estes as the A’s went to their bullpen and brought in Adrian Martinez to face Dominic Canzone. A great day got even better for Canzone as he drove one to deep left center for extra bases. With two outs, Suarez and France both scored on Canzone’s 13th double of the season. A four RBI day for Canzone stood out on the stat sheet as the Mariners lead was up to 6-1.
It wouldn’t be just smooth sailing from there for the Mariners as the young Oakland roster continued to fight. In the bottom of the 6th, Seth Brown took a two-out single into left that ended up leading to a big two-out blast. Oakland’s lone All-Star in Brent Rooker finally did some damage against the Mariners. A two-run shot sailed out to center for Rooker’s 27th home run of the season, making it 6-3. That would be the last damage Oakland dealt to George Kirby. After a stretch of rough outings, Kirby recorded a quality outing that gives him some momentum down the stretch. The All-Star went seven innings and allowed the three runs on eight hits with no walks and three strikeouts. It wasn’t an outing that will jump off the page at you, but it was an outing Kirby and the Mariners needed to get his confidence back up for the final ten games.
Seattle’s bullpen only needed to record six outs thanks to Kirby’s solid outing and Andres Muñoz recorded three of those easily in the bottom of the 8th. That left the 9th and final three outs for Justin Topa as he looked to record his third save of the season. Topa got the first two batters easily as Brent Rooker flew out to right and Jordan Diaz grounded out to third to put the A’s down to their final out. Tyler Soderstrom extended the game with a walk to put the tying run on deck. That batter never got to the plate as Justin Topa struck out Kevin Smith with a slider on the seventh pitch of their battle for the final out. Seattle finished the season with a 12-1 record against the A’s as they swept all six games in Oakland including this one by a final of 6-3.
Wednesday turned into a keep pace day for the Seattle Mariners (84-68) as Houston, Texas, and Toronto all won their games as well. The standings remain the same with the Mariners and Rangers tied for the last Wild Card spot, one game behind the Toronto Blue Jays. Seattle and Texas are also still just half of a game behind the Houston Astros for the lead in the AL West. Now things get very interesting as Seattle’s final ten games come against the Rangers and Astros. First up, a trip to Texas to take on the Rangers (84-68) for a three-game series starting on Friday at 5:05pm. These games are even more important since the Rangers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the M’s 5-1. Game one will have Texas native Bryce Miller (8-5, 3.88 ERA) make the biggest start of his young career. This will be the third time Miller has pitched in Texas this season and he has had some mixed results. Against the Rangers in June, Miller gave up seven runs on eight hits in just 2 1/3 innings but dominated in Houston in August when he went 6 1/3 innings giving up no runs on two hits. Dane Dunning (10-6, 3.78 ERA) will take the ball in the opener for the Rangers. Dunning has not been going deep into games, but after giving up nine runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Astros to start the month, has bounced back with two solid outings against Toronto and Cleveland.
That sweep was refreshing. The frustrations of the series with the Dodgers are gone and we can move forward.
Playoff baseball is now here. No, these games aren’t actually the postseason, but they all will feel like they are. Ten games, seven with the Rangers and three with the Astros, are what stand between the Mariners and a playoff berth and an AL West title. There has not been a stretch like this for the Mariners since way back in 1995, the season that saved baseball in Seattle. Everything is in the Mariners control right now. And while yes, the M’s have dominated Houston this season, they have also been embarrassed by Texas. Everything has to be perfect for the M’s at this point. The pitching will be the key to this final stretch as it has been all season. Luis Castillo, George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, Bryce Miller, and Bryan Woo are all expected to get two more starts each. They need to put the team in a position to win. Quality outings are a must now. With no more days off, the bullpen can’t falter either. Extra innings and blown leads mean more pitchers being used. Can’t have that at this juncture. The offense has to produce as well. No more running into outs on the basepaths. We also can’t see the guys try to do too much at the plate. Everyone has to do their job.
So here we go Mariner fans. The playoffs begin now. The most important stretch of Mariners baseball in this century is here. Ten games. Here we go.
- Dominic Canzone- 2-3, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, R
- Cal Raleigh- 2-5, 2B, HR, RBI, R
- George Kirby (W, 11-10)- 7 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO
- Brent Rooker- 1-4, HR, 2 RBI, R
- Zack Gelof- 2-4, HR, RBI, R, SB
- Joey Estes (L, 0-1)- 4.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO