OAKLAND -- For five innings, Felix Hernandez looked like the King again. But time seems to have caught up with the longtime Mariners ace this year, and the A's caught up with him in the sixth inning of Sunday's 8-2 loss at the Coliseum that drove a knife into Seattle's fading postseason hopes.
Desperately needing a series win against the team they're chasing in the American League Wild Card race, the Mariners instead settled for a four-game split that leaves them 5 1/2 games back at 76-61 with 25 games remaining.
"We have an uphill climb ahead of us," Mariners manager Scott Servais acknowledged. "We have to go home and take care of business there and rattle off a good string of wins. We have to win five, six in a row and see what happens from there. There's still plenty of baseball to play, but it has to happen real quick for us. We need to have a real good homestand."
The Mariners still face the A's three more times in the final week of the season, but they'll need to make up ground elsewhere to give themselves a shot. Oakland plays the Yankees in its next three games, while the Mariners host a 40-97 Orioles club. But the Yankees then head to Seattle, and the Mariners' schedule still includes another 10-game road trip.
The Mariners finished this road trip at 4-5, but it was the split with the A's that proved costly as they couldn't take advantage of the head-to-head battle against their AL West rivals.
"Every game is big at this point of the season, especially when you're here," third baseman Kyle Seager said. "Obviously, this is who we're chasing. We know where we're at and everything. These are big games, and it was definitely disappointing to not gain ground on them."
Hernandez faced the minimum through four scoreless innings before Stephen Piscotty's solo homer in the fifth, pulling a 1-0 sinker over the left-field fence to tie the game at 1.
But things unraveled quickly in the sixth when Chad Pinder singled, pinch-hitter Matt Joyce walked and -- after a wild pitch moved both into scoring position -- Marcus Semien roped a two-run single past Seager at third.
"Felix threw the ball fine," Servais said. "Through five innings, he was in good shape. Then the sixth got away from him real quick. In the matter of about seven, eight pitches, they had a couple runs on the board."
Nick Vincent replaced Hernandez, but he couldn't stop the bleeding as the A's wound up scoring four runs in the frame to take a 5-1 lead that proved insurmountable against Oakland's outstanding bullpen.
Hernandez took the loss after five-plus innings with four hits, four runs, two walks and three strikeouts, falling to 8-13 with a 5.55 ERA. Though he has been better his last few outings, the 32-year-old hasn't won a game since June 30 and is 0-7 with a 6.46 ERA in his last nine appearances.
Servais put this one more on the offense than his starting pitcher, who said he felt fine physically.
"It was a disappointing way to finish the series," Servais said. "We had the big win last night and this was obviously a big sway game today, where we're at in the standings if we could have pulled this one out. But we didn't get enough going offensively to make that happen."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Mariners missed a couple of scoring opportunities early that could have made things interesting, but their biggest chance came in the eighth when they cut the lead to 5-2 on Ryon Healy's RBI single off Fernando Rodney, the first run he has given up in 12 appearances since joining the A's.
But A's manager Bob Melvin summoned closer Blake Treinen with two outs and two on, and he got Seager on a flyout to left when Seager tried to jump on a first-pitch, 94.9-mph fastball up in the zone from the nasty sinkerballer.
"He's obviously really tough," Seager said. "His ball moves so much. The whole approach is get him up, get him in the air. It's a simple approach, but it's hard to do. I got a pitch up, but he beat me to it there. I popped it up. But the approach is just to do anything you can to get him up in the air."
Hernandez's three strikeouts hiked his career total to 2,461, tying him with Jim Kaat for 38th on MLB's all-time list. Next up: Mark Langston with 2,464.
THEY SAID IT
"We're going to need to get hot here and win some games. But instead of thinking about going on a run, we just need to think about winning tomorrow. That's kind of the key of where we need to focus. You can't win four games a day, so you have to just try your best to keep everything to that day." -- Seager, on what it'll take to make up ground on the A's
"The difference between 5 1/2 and 3 1/2 games is pretty significant, especially now that we're into September, so that was a huge game. Even though every game is important, that was a big one."
-- Piscotty, who hit two homers and racked up five RBIs for the A's
Erasmo Ramirez (1-3, 6.28) gets the ball for Monday's 6:10 p.m. PT series opener against Orioles lefty Josh Rogers (1-0, 5.40) on Labor Day. Ramirez allowed two earned runs in 16 innings in his first three starts after coming off the disabled list before giving up seven runs on nine hits in three innings in a loss to the Padres. He's 2-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 17 career outings (seven starts) vs. the Orioles.