After heartbreaker, Seattle sees bright future

'No doubt we will be a better team next year,' Cruz says

After heartbreaker, Seattle sees bright future

SEATTLE -- Scott Servais has seemingly been prepared for every moment, every step of his first season as Mariners manager. But not this. Not the abrupt ending to what he'd hoped would be a magical run to a playoff berth.

"I was really not prepared to make the end-of-the-season speech," Servais said after meeting with his team in the clubhouse following Saturday's 9-8, 10-inning loss to the A's that mathematically eliminated the Mariners from the postseason. "I just had never even thought we weren't going to make it. I really felt worst-case scenario, we would get to the one-game play-in.

"I thought that's where we were headed. So it's hard to swallow and kind of digest it all, but we'll look back on this whole experience, and a lot of players have gained a lot from it. Whether it's guys that haven't been through it before here with the Mariners, young players coming up, it'll really help us in the future."

Saturday's loss seemed a microcosm of Seattle's season. Seemingly dead in the water with an early, 5-2 deficit, the Mariners rallied behind two-run blasts by Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz to eventually tie the game at 7, only to see the A's re-take the lead in the eighth, before the Mariners tied it back up in the bottom of that frame.

Cruz's game-tying dinger

But in the end, this game -- and the season -- came up just short. It was entertaining, it was dramatic, but it also left that empty feeling of a 15th straight year without a postseason appearance for the Mariners.

"There's a lot of good things to talk about," said Cruz, whose two-run homer in the seventh led the comeback bid. "But at the same time, we have to understand everybody knows what needs to be done to just get a little bit better. Whatever it is, maybe baserunning, maybe play a little bit different, whatever it might be. So we don't fight for the Wild Card. We should be fighting for the West. Definitely this experience should help everybody. No doubt we will be a better team next year."

Servais believes that sting will soon be replaced by the realization that things are headed the right direction. At 86-75, the Mariners head into their final game on Sunday with a chance to match the seventh-best record in franchise history. They've already made a 10-win improvement from last year's 76-86 finish.

"I can't say enough about our team, the competitive spirit, how they went about things this entire year," Servais said. "As good as we were, we were just as bad at times. But to finish it off the way we did and to put a run together and give us a chance to experience something like this says a lot about the players, the guys in that room.

"Guys are upset. It hurts. And I think when you get to that point, you've accomplished something," he said.

A Mariners clubhouse that has been loose and lively throughout the year was dead silent after this one. There'll be time for reflection later, but on this night, the simple fact was that no one was ready for the rug to be pulled out from under them.

"Unfortunately we didn't get as far as we needed to go, but it was a great run," Servais said. "We've laid a foundation here how we're going to do things going forward with the front office, new coaching staff, a lot of new players, and we'll build on it. It doesn't make it any easier tonight, losing a ballgame like that. But we've made a lot of strides."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.