Originally written on Oregon Sports News  |  Last updated 11/18/14

The Seattle Mariners had one of their worst weeks in these past two September series against AL West rivals Los Angeles Angels (88-71) and Oakland A’s (91-68). This was when we wanted them to break some hearts—cause some tears—since they aren’t going to be competing in the playoffs. However, even though the Mariners lost 2 of 3 to the Angels, they outscored them in the 3 contests, 12-9. Run production is what I like to see. Against the A’s, the Mariners were swept.

The Mariners struck out 20 times in Game 1, on their way to losing, 5-4. That many strikeouts in a 9-inning game had only been done previously 3 times—once by then Cubs-rookie Kerry Wood in ’98 against the Astros, and twice by Roger Clemens with the Red Sox, first against the Mariners in ’86, and then against the Tigers in ‘96. (Too bad Clemens had drug issues—he was so good.) The Mariners have been the culprits of 2 of the 4 20K games. To put it in perspective, the Mariners struck out 18 times in their 18-inning Orioles loss 2 weeks ago.

The Mariners went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position, and 3 of their RBIs came from the 2 home runs that first baseman Justin Smoak hit—one from each side of the plate. It was the first time he’s ever done that in the Majors. Seattle did manage to have runners on base in 7 different innings.

The Mariners scored 4 runs off the Angels. Three of those runs came in the 7th, off back-to-back doubles by Dustin Ackley and Franklin Gutierrez, which was followed by the 2-run right-handed home run by Smoak. Smoak’s first home run, hitting left-handed, came in the 4th.

Nicaraguan rookie Erasmo Ramirez pitched well, giving up just 2 unearned runs in the 1st, and then a 2-run shot by Torii Hunter in the 5th. Eric Aybar also homered in the 6th. “That's baseball,” Ramirez said. “They hit some balls in the right spots and I just tried to continue pitching and keep the game close. I had a little bad luck in the 5th and then I threw a high pitch, the slider [to Hunter] where I missed the spot and they made me pay for it. But I tried my best and now I'll just wait for the next start. This one is done."

Game 2 was lost in similar fashion—by 1 run. The Angels are looking to win the Wild Card bid, and everyone (the O’s, the A’s and the Rays) in contention had already won Wednesday night. The Angels were down in the 7th by a run, when Torii Hunter first delivered with a 2-out RBI single. Then again in the 9th, after the M’s had intentionally walked rookie standout Mike Trout to induce a possible double play, with 1 out Hunter hit the 10th walk-off hit of his career. It was a good lesson for the young Mariners to see how teams fight for the playoffs. The Angels remained just 2 games behind the A’s.

Of the decision to intentionally walk Trout and Hunter’s heroics, M’s manager Eric Wedge said, "You do what you can to pick your best option there. Torii did a nice job, didn't try to do too much. He's a veteran guy and just kind of served it out there." The hit came off rookie reliever Stephen Pryor, who had also allowed pinch-hitter Maicer Izturis to reach 3rd after a leadoff single, wild pitch and sacrifice bunt.

Of the accumulating experience, Skipper Wedge says of the boys, "We've got a lot of young kids going through an experience right now that is going to help them be a veteran club in a couple years and they'll be better for it," said Wedge. "We'll win a lot of these next year just because of all they've gone through, particularly here in September.” The Mariners have the most games won/lost by a 1-run difference in the AL with 54; they have won 24, and lost 29.

Highlights of the game included another home run by Smoak. The home run was his 5th in the past 10 games, and his team-leading 19th of the season. Before these past 10 September contests, it had taken Smoak 66 games to rack up 5 home runs, which pretty much sums up his mid-season hitting trouble.

Baseball is funny, or I guess frustrating. Take it from Angels manager Mike Scioscia—after 2 wins against the Mariners, the Angels couldn’t pick up another win when it counted. The A’s had lost earlier in the day, giving the Angels a chance to advance their bid for the Wild Card. But it didn’t happen. The Mariners opened up a can on the Angels, and routed them 9-4. "We didn't play well enough to win today," said Scioscia. "On the defensive side, we cracked some things open for them. Offensively it took us a while to get going. On the mound, we didn't make some pitches when we had to. Bottom line is we lost a baseball game."

In the closer in Los Angeles, Hisashi Iwakuma tossed 6 solid innings to bring home a win for the Mariners and the 3rd win of his career against Los Angeles. He says he feels comfortable with them: "I've figured out who they are and I know how to pitch against them. I'm very comfortable against them."

To start off, the Mariners were down by 1, but then Gutierrez led off the 4th with a single, and was hit in by a home run from John Jaso who was designated hitter. The Angels tied it up in the bottom of the frame, but the Mariners kept plugging away, with another run coming in the 5th. Right-fielder Casper Wells led off that frame with a single, and came in when Gutierrez grounded into a force out at 2nd.

The Mariners then exploded in the 7th scoring 4 runs. Left-fielder Michael Saunders and Wells started out the inning with singles. Shortstop Brendan Ryan then advanced Wells with a sac bunt, followed by an intentional walk to second baseman Dustin Ackley, which loaded the bases. Left-fielder Trayvon Robinson (who had come in to replace Gutierrez who experienced dizziness after making a catch against the wall in center field) then walked, which scored Saunders from 3rd, and 3rd baseman Kyle Seager then singled (after hitting a double earlier in the game) to score Wells. Catcher Jesus Montero then hit a sac fly to score Ackley, and to cap the inning off, Jaso followed with a double to score Robinson from 2nd.

Albert Pujols and Alberto Callaspo would score for the Angels in the bottom of the 8th, but the Mariners would tack 2 more on in the 9th (Ackley and Robinson) to seal the deal.

Hinting again at the change in atmosphere in September, Skipper Wedge commented: "It's great for our kids to be in the thick of all this right now. For almost all of them, it's their first experience playing these kinds of meaningful games here at the end of September. Every game we play is a playoff-type atmosphere the way these teams are fighting to get in there. It's great experience for our guys."

I’m sure that when the Angels were leaving the field they were wishing their AL West comrades much luck against the A’s, but the Mariners didn’t get it. They lost all 3 to Oakland.

Blake Beavan pitched the first loss against the A’s, coming after his impressive win against Texas last week. The score was 8-2, a blow-out. 4 runs came off Beavan, and 4 off relievers. From the plate, Seattle was again 0-7 with runners in scoring position—making that 4-64 in their last 8 games. That’s definitely not playoff caliber.

The Mariners’ runs were scored by a home run in the 2nd by Robinson, and another by his grass-mate Saunders leading off the 7th. The home runs contributed to their “home run in games” streak, bringing the tally to 17. It was Saunders’ 18th home run, which is only 1 behind Smoak’s team leading 19.

Of the homers Beavan gave up, 1 led off the game by Coco Crisp, and a 2-run shot came in the 3rd. A’s Shortstop Stephen Drew hit the 2- run blast that caused the A’s to spring ahead on the scoreboard, and of the homer, Beavan had this to say: "I should have been smarter on my part. He's a veteran hitter and he's going to try and jump on that first pitch if he sees something he can hit. And I pretty much put it on a tee for him."

Game 2 was a bit closer, but was still lost 7-4. Surprisingly, 3 of those runs came in the 10th inning in the form of a 3-run jack. The A’s had also rallied in the 9th to get into extra innings; it was the A’s Major-League leading 14th walk-off win.

Saunders and Seager both hit home runs in the contest putting them into a tie with Smoak for team lead with 19. If Saunders hits 1 more home run, it would make him the first player since Mike Cameron in 2002 to have a season with 20+ home runs and 20+ stolen bases. Saunders stole his 21st base in the game. The past 2 years the Mariners have hit 101 and 109 home runs, respectively; this year they have 146 which marks a good improvement.

Jason Vargas started for the Mariners and was hoping to notch a win in his final appearance of the season, giving up just 1 run over 7 innings to the Wild Card hopefuls. But sadly, the win flew away from the Mariners in the flurry of excitement generated from the hopeful A’s fans, and surging club. Manager Wedge had this to say about the Oakland atmosphere: "Those guys are feeling it over there. The fans are feeling it, the players are feeling it. You can sense the excitement in the air. It's great for our guys to be thrown into that environment, but we've got to finish things off." Vargas finished the season 14-11 with a 3.85 ERA. The 2012 season held his career high in wins, innings pitched (217 1/3), starts (33) and strikeouts (141).

Of Vargas Wedge said, "He easily could have 17-18 wins, but he still ended with a tremendous year and great numbers.”

As far as Game 3 goes, “Cespedes, A’s send Mariners packing,” read the screen at Gameday MLB. The Mariners closed their California road trip out with their 3rd straight loss, losing to the A’s, 5-2. A’s left fielder Yoenis Cespedes tripled, homered, and scored a run with 2 RBIs in the game. The A’s, doing a lot of their late-season damage against the Mariners, are battling for the Wild Card spot and/or 1st place in the AL West—they’re that close to Texas. Their last 3 games will be against the Rangers in Oakland.

In his final start of the season, 22-yr-old Ramirez went 6 1/3 innings, giving up just 2 runs to a hungry ball club. He gave up just 3 hits, walked 4, and had 6 Ks. In his first year in the Majors he had a 1-3 record and 3.36 ERA, in 16 games and 8 starts.

The Mariners outhit the A’s in the contest 11-6 and were tied at 2 for most of the game. Smoak and Seager had the RBIs, while Gutierrez (who had reached on a double) and Wells (a single) scored. It was Seager’s 84th RBI, which leads the team, and puts him third amongst AL 3rd basemen (right behind batting title hopeful Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, and Texas’ Adrian Beltre).

In the 8th, the A’s took the lead with 2 home runs. It was the Mariners 10th loss in 13 games, and the A’s 91st win, compared to the Mariners 73. The Mariners also failed to homer in this game, closing their streak out at 18, just 1 shy of the franchise record of 19 games in a row with a home run. The Mariners have 7 guys who have hit 10 home runs or more on the roster—a feat which hasn’t been done since 2000.

Summing up the loss and season, Skipper Wedge recounts: "Without a doubt, these kids have gotten better individually. But collectively we have to do better and finish off those things when we do create opportunities. To have 11 hits with only a couple runs, you have to do better than that. At times you just have to put the ball in play, shorten up and make contact."

Smoak, who went 2-for-4 in the contest, hammered the point home, when he said: "When we've got guys on 1st and 3rd with nobody out and nothing to show for it, it keeps them in the ballgame. And those guys over there have come back a lot this year and got big hits when they've needed [to]. When you get your opportunities, you've got to take advantage, and that's something we didn't do today." Smoak has hit .400 over the past 15 games, and has raised his batting average from .189 to .214.

Rookie relief pitcher Lucas Luetge, who allowed the 2-run homer by Josh Reddick (he has 32 home runs on the season) in the 8th, said of Oakland, "They're hot and making things happen. They're doing what a good team is supposed to do, and that's why they're in the position they are.” It will be exciting to watch them in the playoffs.

The Mariners final 3 games are at home against the Los Angeles Angels. Go get ‘em!

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