OAKLAND -- The Mariners kept pace in a crowded American League Wild Card race Friday night, pulling within 3 1/2 games of a postseason spot thanks to a 3-2, series-opening victory over the A's behind right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma at the Coliseum.
Iwakuma, who allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings, was staked to an early lead courtesy of Nelson Cruz's first-inning RBI double, and the Mariners kept their distance with a pair of homers, getting solo shots from Norichika Aoki and Mike Zunino.
"We all fight and play to play in the playoffs," said Iwakuma, who matched his career-high with 15 wins. "As a starter, I only pitch one game every five days, and you want to go out and give it all you got. I was able to do that today."
First-time leadoff man Joey Wendle and catcher Bruce Maxwell drove in runs for the A's and combined for five hits, while fellow rookie Daniel Mengden took the loss after yielding two runs in five innings. Oakland was officially eliminated from AL West competition with the loss.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Solo surge: A pair of solo home runs proved to be the difference for the Mariners. Aoki hit the first pitch of the second inning over the right field fence and Zunino supplied an insurance run with a solo blast in the seventh. The Mariners have now hit two or more home runs in seven straight contests. More >
"Didn't hit it great with runners in scoring position," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "But a couple of home runs, that really helped out."
Comfort zone: Maxwell struggled at the plate upon his late July promotion, collecting just two hits in his first 23 at-bats, but he appears to have found his groove as he garners more playing time. The catcher's first career three-hit night Friday gave him seven hits in his last 18 at-bats, with seven RBIs recorded in that span.
"That's the best game he's had by far," A's manager Bob Melvin said.
"I feel more comfortable," Maxwell said. "At Triple-A, it was the same thing, just getting my feet wet and getting consistent at-bats. I started off slow, then turned it up, so it's just about getting my repetitions and seeing the ball and keeping with my approach."
Patience is key: Cruz fouled off six consecutive pitches before lining a two-out RBI double to score Robinson Cano in the top of the first. The line drive to the right-center field fence came on the 13th pitch of the at-bat and provided Seattle with a 1-0 lead.
Preventing damage: The A's put the tying run at second in the seventh after Maxwell's two-out double scored Muncy. It proved to be Iwakuma's final pitch of the evening. And Servais' decision to go to the bullpen paid off, as Dan Altavilla forced Wendle into hitting an inning-ending flyout to preserve the club's one-run lead.
"I really believe in our team and we've just got to keep winning series. Hopefully sweep one here or there and see where we're at. I'd love to get back home and be in a really good spot and make those games really exciting. That's what we're shooting for." -- Servais on the team's playoff pursuit
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Mariners have nine players with 10 or more home runs, which ties a club record set in 2015.
WHAT'S NEXT Mariners:Felix Hernandez will look to rebound from a rough start to September when he takes the mound against the A's at 1:05 p.m. PT Saturday. Hernandez allowed six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings in his last outing. The right-hander is 22-8 with a 2.67 ERA in 42 career starts versus Oakland.
A's: Right-hander Kendall Graveman, the A's most consistent starter this season, will be on the mound Saturday for the second of this three-game series with the Mariners. Graveman is 1-2 with a 3.71 ERA in six career appearances, including four starts, against the Mariners.