Mariners keep dream alive with walk-off win

Mariners keep dream alive with walk-off win

SEATTLE -- If Saturday was any indication, Safeco Field might just explode on Sunday as the Mariners find themselves with one last chance at landing their first playoff berth in 13 years.

Gunning for their first postseason bid since 2001, the Mariners kept hope alive with a 2-1 victory over the Angels, as Austin Jackson drove in Brad Miller from third with a fielder's-choice grounder in the bottom of the 11th inning.

And now Seattle goes into Sunday's regular-season finale with Felix Hernandez on the mound and an opportunity, if the A's lose their finale to the Rangers, to tie the A's for the American League's second Wild Card berth.

"I expect Felix to be Felix and do the best he can for as long as he can," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "We'll see what happens. All I know is we're still in the ring, still throwing punches."

The Mariners missed a couple of haymakers on Saturday before finally landing the jab that knocked down an Angels team that has already clinched the best record in the AL.

After missing a golden opportunity to win the game with no outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth and again with two on and one out in the 10th, the Mariners finally pulled off just their second walk-off win of the season.

Miller and Chris Taylor, who both struck out with the bases full in the ninth, came through, with a one-out double by Miller and a single by Taylor to put runners at the corners. Jackson then grounded to second, but he beat the double-play relay throw by a fraction of a second for the game-winning RBI.

"Any time you have an opportunity to win the ballgame and you don't, you're itching for another chance," said Jackson, who had flied out for the final out of the ninth. "We had a few opportunities there, and luckily, I was able to make contact and run as hard as I could. I kind of wanted to dive at the bag and grab it. Whatever it takes to get a win."

"It felt like that play took about an hour and a half," said McClendon. "I think my heart stopped maybe two or three times."

But the Mariners still have a pulse, and the scenario is simple. If Seattle beats Los Angeles on Sunday for a third straight time and Oakland loses again in Texas, the Mariners and A's will finish tied, at 87-75, and would play a one-game tiebreaker on Monday at Safeco Field to determine the AL's final entrant into the postseason party.

The winner of that game would then play at either Detroit or Kansas City -- whichever winds up second in the AL Central -- in the one-game Wild Card Game on Tuesday to determine who advances to the best-of-five AL Division Series starting on Thursday.

"It's crazy," said Miller, who started the game on the bench but wound up scoring the winning run in the biggest victory in the club's recent history. "We have to go out and play with the same energy we did today. We've got the best guy in the league on the mound tomorrow, so we've got to take care of our business. But this is right where you want to be, playing Game 162 and you're still in it."

The Mariners teetered on the brink of elimination for much of the night and struggled to get anything going for the first six innings against Angels southpaw C.J. Wilson. But in the seventh, moments after the Rangers finished off a 5-4 victory over the A's in Arlington, Logan Morrison drove an RBI double into the gap in right-center to tie things up at 1 and send the Safeco Field crowd into a towel-waving frenzy.

The Mariners didn't score again until the 11th, however, despite pulling out all the stops with their chances in the ninth and 10th.

"We were going for it at every opportunity," said McClendon. "And we had opportunities, that's for sure. We just couldn't cash in until A.J. came through."

Rookie southpaw James Paxton, 25, kept things close in the early going, giving up just one run in 5 2/3 innings as he bounced back from the first rough outing of his career in strong fashion. He allowed just four hits, with three walks and four strikeouts, finishing the season at 6-4 with a 3.04 ERA in 13 starts.

Paxton gave up a run in the second and it could have been worse, but Jackson ran down a bases-loaded drive in the left-center gap by Kole Calhoun for the third out.

"That was big," said Paxton. "I love having him out there. He's got wheels, and he showed them that last play, too."

Danny Farquhar replaced Paxton with runners on first and third and two out in the sixth and struck out C.J. Cron to keep the score at 1-0; Farquhar was the first of seven relievers to keep the Angels off the board the rest of the way.

And in the end, that effort was rewarded by a groundout against an Angels infield playing with an extra man after bringing in the outfield, with second baseman Grant Green hesitating just long enough while thinking of throwing home before flipping to second for the attempted double play.

With that, Miller, Jackson and Taylor -- the trio that didn't deliver in the ninth -- came through with the run.

"Obviously, there was a little redemption there for all of us," Miller said. "We all wanted to do it. But baseball is like that. If you don't do it, there's still a game to play. I knew I was coming up again, and I wanted to do something, get something going, whatever I could do. That was a great way to end it."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.