Mariners hold off A's to stay in playoff chase

Mariners hold off A's to stay in playoff chase

SEATTLE -- The Mariners' postseason hopes might be flickering, but Mike Zunino isn't ready to turn out the lights just yet.

Zunino's home run leading off the seventh lifted Seattle to a 3-2 victory over the A's in Thursday's series opener at Safeco Field and keeps the Mariners two games back of the Orioles and Blue Jays in the American League Wild Card chase with three games remaining.

"For us it's like the playoffs started a few weeks ago, knowing how close we are," Zunino said. "So it's nice, the atmosphere has been great here, the team's been playing well, and we can only do so much as a team and let everything fall into place."

Zunino's go-ahead blast was his 12th of the season and Ketel Marte added an RBI single in the eighth as Seattle handed Oakland its ninth loss in the past 10 games. The A's scored a run on three singles in the ninth and had runners on first and third before 22-year-old closer Edwin Diaz slammed the door for his 18th save.

"It came down to situational at-bats," A's manager Bob Melvin said.

The Mariners have won 15 of their past 21 to bump themselves up to a season-best 11 games over .500 at 85-74, but Baltimore's 4-0 victory over Toronto leaves them little wiggle room heading into the season's closing weekend.

If the Mariners win their final three, they'll need either the Orioles or Blue Jays to lose two-of-three and have the Tigers lose at least once to force a tiebreaker for the final Wild Card spot. If they go 2-1 in their final three, they'd need Toronto or Baltimore to lose all three and have the Tigers lose twice.

"We live another day," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "This was a really gutsy performance by all our guys."

Ariel Miranda allowed just four hits over 5 1/3 innings for Seattle, but left with a no-decision after A's rookie second baseman Chad Pinder tied the game at 1 with a leadoff homer in the sixth. Miranda closed out his rookie season with a 5-2 record and 3.88 ERA after being acquired at the Trade Deadline from the Orioles for Wade Miley.

Miranda strikes out Smolinski

Kendall Graveman dueled Miranda to a draw as the A's right-hander gave up seven hits and one run over 5 2/3 innings to close his campaign at 10-11 with a 4.11 ERA.

"They stack a lot of lefties in on you and you can kind of get in the pattern of throwing away, away, away, and they start to see it out there and put some good swings on it, but for the most part I thought we commanded it very well tonight," Graveman said. More >

Graveman strikes out Smith

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Running good (and bad): Kyle Seager legged out an infield single in the fourth inning on a little nubber down the first-base line that Graveman couldn't field cleanly, moved to second on an Adam Lind single and scored on Leonys Martin's base hit to right to give Seattle a 1-0 lead. But Martin ran the Mariners out of that inning when he aggressively headed for second on the A's throw to the plate and was caught in a rundown, with Lind ultimately being thrown out on a 9-3-6-3-2 after breaking for home when Martin was hung up.

Martin's RBI single

Pinder powers up: Pinder picked an opportune time for his first Major League home run, tying the game, 1-1, when he swatted one out to left field to christen the sixth inning. The A's infield prospect, who totaled 14 home runs in 107 games at the Triple-A level this season, has six hits in his last 17 at-bats -- four of them for extra bases, after hitting just .156 in his first 11 career games.

"It's always nice to get your first home run," Melvin said. "He's been swinging the bat pretty well as of late."

Defense and pitching: The A's had an excellent chance to take the lead in the top of the seventh after Danny Valencia led off with a single off reliever Dan Altavilla. Brett Eibner then ripped a shot toward the hole at shortstop, but Ketel Marte made an excellent stop and popped up immediately to fire to second for a force. After Yonder Alonso followed with a single to put two on, Steve Cishek replaced Altavilla and got Jake Smolinski to ground into a first-pitch double play.

"Obviously we needed it," Cishek said. "I just gripped a two-seam and threw it as hard as I possibly could. It was probably only 91, but it had every ounce of energy behind it."

The kid closes it out: Diaz has been a little shaky of late with two blown saves in his previous three outings and the hard-throwing youngster got in immediate trouble again with a leadoff single by Stephen Vogt, a double by Ryon Healy and a one-out RBI single by Bruce Maxwell to cut the lead to 3-2. But after a visit from pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., Diaz got back to doing what he does best -- which is firing heat -- as he struck out Valencia and Max Muncy to end the game.

"He just needs to trust it and let it rip," said Servais. "He told me early in the year, 'I throw 100 and it's hard to hit 100.' And it is. Rather than put it here or there, just let it rip and we'll take our chances with it. Which he did after Mel's visit."

Statcast: Diaz's 18th save

QUOTABLE
"He had the tough error in Houston, but I believe in our guys and have all year. You have to trust in them. They've got us to this point and he's going to have nights like he did tonight. Great play in the hole, that was a huge out in that inning. Good bunt, the base hit late for the RBI. I'm really happy for him because he was down. This means a lot to these guys and they don't want to let their teammates down." -- Servais on sticking with Marte at shortstop

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Mariners had reached 10 games over .500 five times this season and then lost the next game. This time they finally got to 11 over for the first time since the final game of 2014, when they closed the year at 87-75..

WHAT'S NEXT
A's: Right-hander Raul Alcantara will be making his fifth and final start of the season for the A's on Friday, taking on the Mariners in the second of a four-game series at Safeco Field beginning at 7:10 p.m. PT. Alcantara faced Seattle on Sept. 11, settling on a no-decision after allowing two runs on seven hits with one walk and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Mariners: Taijuan Walker (7-11, 4.35 ERA) gets the start in Friday's 7:10 p.m. PT game as Seattle looks to keep its postseason hopes alive. The 24-year-old right-hander is 0-2 with a 5.16 ERA in six games, including four starts, against the A's.

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Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.