Mariners stymie A's, narrow Wild Card gap

Anderson matches season high with 7 strikeouts in opener of crucial series

September 21st, 2021

OAKLAND -- Time is running out on the Mariners and their pursuit of the postseason, but they accomplished precisely what they needed to in order to keep those hopes alive by doing damage to the club directly ahead of them in the American League Wild Card standings.

Kyle Seager drove in three runs and Ty France added another, as Seattle finally broke through against A’s starter Sean Manaea, who had silenced the Mariners in each of his previous two starts against them this season. But it was ’s seven gritty innings that were arguably the biggest catalyst in a 4-2 win Monday night at the Oakland Coliseum to open this critical four-game series that has huge postseason implications.

Paul Sewald also bounced back in a big way by recording a five-out save that began with him striking out Matt Olson and Matt Chapman with one out and two on to halt what was shaping up to be an eighth-inning Oakland rally.

The Mariners are now three games back of the second AL Wild Card and Oakland dropped to two games back. The Yankees are the first team on the outside looking in, chasing Boston, which holds the top spot, and Toronto, which clings to a half-game lead for the second spot.

“We all want to play for something bigger than ourselves, and me especially,” Seager said. “These are uncharted waters that I haven't been able to experience very often, so I'm definitely soaking it up.”

Anderson tied his season high with seven strikeouts, accomplished four times with the Pirates, so Monday represented his high mark since coming to Seattle ahead of the Trade Deadline. This is precisely why the club acquired the 31-year-old left-hander, despite his impending free-agent status this offseason -- to give Seattle a chance to win important games.

Mariners manager Scott Servais is already lobbying to retain Anderson, who has set himself up nicely for what will almost certainly be a multiyear deal this winter.

“I certainly have a ton of interest, and hopefully he continues to get a couple more big starts ahead of us this season, but then we'll see where it goes from there,” Servais said. “But I would love to have him back in our uniform.”

Anderson is open to a return, too, but with the looming expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement on Dec. 1 and, more chiefly, that he’s in his sixth season and is coming off consecutive one-year deals with San Francisco and Pittsburgh, it seems certain that he will at least test the free-agent waters unless the Mariners were to make an offer that blows him away.

“There hasn't been talk about that,” Anderson said. “I think right now we're all focused on trying to win as many games as we can. We're trying to take every day one day at a time and win today. But I mean, I do like it here. I like it here a lot. The guys are awesome. The staff is great. It's been an easy transition, a good fit here. So I love that. But I think right now, we're just focused on today.”

But back to Monday’s tight tilt -- Seager’s three RBIs brought his season total to 99, which tied a career high set back in 2016, though he reached this mark in 11 fewer games and 57 fewer plate appearances. And Sewald recorded his third straight scoreless outing after surrendering homers in each of his previous three.

That combined effort helped the Mariners advance to 9-4 against their division rivals. They also won their 81st game to ensure that they will finish with at least a .500 record, and they have 12 games remaining to secure their first winning season since 2018 and their third under Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto, who were hired ahead of the ‘16 season and both recently signed multiyear contract extensions.

These games against Oakland are as important as any since Seattle launched its multiyear rebuild after that 2018 season, in which they won 89 games, but tumbled out of contention in the late summer, in huge part due to Oakland’s second-half surge. Six of its final games are against the A’s, including a three-game series next week at T-Mobile Park.

And the road gets tougher for Oakland. After playing nine straight games against teams below .500, Monday marked the beginning of a 13-game stretch to end the season against teams above .500, including six against the division-leading Astros. The A’s are 17 games under .500 (28-45) against such teams, which ranks 21st in the Majors.

But the Mariners insist that they’re exclusively focused on taking care of their own business. They will relish the moment of playing these meaningful games late in the year, which for many on the roster is the first such experience. But they also realize the importance of staying insular if they are going to make a run at this thing over the next two weeks, and that’s exactly what helped them on Monday.