SEATTLE -- James Paxton returned to the rotation, Robinson Cano continued hitting and Dee Gordon muscled up again. But the Mariners couldn't slow the A's runaway train on Monday as Oakland homered four times in a 7-3 series-opening victory at Safeco Field after clinching an American League playoff berth earlier
SEATTLE -- James Paxton returned to the rotation, Robinson Cano continued hitting and Dee Gordon muscled up again. But the Mariners couldn't slow the A's runaway train on Monday as Oakland homered four times in a 7-3 series-opening victory at Safeco Field after clinching an American League playoff berth earlier in the day.
Oakland wrapped up at least a Wild Card berth when the Rays lost to the Yankees just as Seattle and Oakland got underway, but the A's didn't stop there as they took care of their own business in improving to 95-62.
The A's pulled off a remarkable midseason turnaround, having trailed the Mariners by 11 games on June 15 for the AL's second Wild Card berth. Since then, Oakland has the best record in the Majors at 61-26, while the Mariners are 40-46.
"Of course it hurts, especially since it was looking so good in the first half," Paxton said. "They surged and we stumbled. It was a heartbreaking way to go for us and none of us are happy about those guys celebrating on our field right now. Hopefully we can get some payback next year."
At 85-71, Seattle already has the ninth-most wins in a season in the franchise's 42-year history with six more games to go. But Oakland's strong run has made the Mariners' final week moot when it comes to playoff hopes.
After missing two starts due to a bout of pneumonia, Paxton gave up three hits -- including homers by Jonathan Lucroy and Jed Lowrie -- and two runs in four innings.The 29-year-old lefty struck out five with no walks in a 71-pitch outing, but remains 11-6 with a 3.85 ERA.
Paxton's second half has largely mirrored Seattle's slump as injuries and illness have limited him to seven starts since the All-Star break, going 3-2 with a 4.37 ERA.
"I wanted to go out there and give it everything I could," Paxton said. "I'm still not 100 percent, but I was trying to take my time between pitches, catch my breath. I thought it went pretty well. I threw some pretty good pitches, but made mistakes on those solo homers that they didn't miss."
Cano launched a solo homer in the first to extend a six-game hitting streak during which he's batted .609 (14-for-23) with five doubles and two homers. Gordon tied the game at 3-3 with a two-run poke in the sixth for his second home run in the past three games and fourth on the year.
But the A's just kept bashing, with Matt Chapman's two-run blast off Shawn Armstrong in the seventh standing as the go-ahead runs. Khris Davis also went deep for Oakland for his MLB-leading 46th homer of the year in the sixth off Adam Warren.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Armstrong hadn't allowed a run in 11 1/3 innings in 10 prior outings since being called up in late August, but threw a cutter that stayed over the plate to Chapman for the key blow. The Mariners have moved the 28-year-old into higher-leverage situations and will continue to do so in the final week.
"Shawn's been throwing the ball really well," manager Scott Servais said. "I thought it was a great opportunity again to get him in those type of situations, see how he handles them. He made a mistake to a very, very good hitter. He left the ball right in the middle of the plate on a cutter that did not cut. It's his pitch, he kind of goes to it, but you've got to get off the edge because when it doesn't move, it's just sitting there as a straight 91-mph fastball. But Armstrong's thrown the ball really well, he just made the mistake tonight and it hurt."
Paxton's five strikeouts raised his season total to 199. He's expected to make one final start this weekend against the Rangers, which will give him a shot at becoming the sixth Mariners pitcher to reach 200 and first since Felix Hernandez in 2014. Randy Johnson did it seven times, Hernandez six, Mark Langston four, and Floyd Bannister and Erik Hanson one each.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Gordon's home run was projected at 337 feet by Statcast™ and he needed every inch of that as the fly ball to right bounced off the top of the yellow padding atop the wall. The slender second baseman's four home runs on the year tie his career high set in 2015 with the Marlins. He's totaled 15 home runs in 850 games over eight seasons in the Majors.
"He got just enough of it tonight," Servais said. "Dee is actually one of our most unlucky hitters this year and defenses have adjusted. They know he likes to take the ball the other way and stuff. He's got the head of the bat out, not by design, it's just worked that way here in the last few days and he's hit some balls hard, which is good. To get a few hits to fall in or just barely over the fence, it makes him feel good."
HE SAID IT
"Certainly they've had a number of players step up. Their third baseman's a heck of a player. I've known him and seen him a long time and he's really kind of come into his own. Their bullpen, I could speak volumes about the stuff they have down there. They are a different team, that happens throughout baseball. Guys get better, they build confidence, you add players. The American League West is a tough division. We knew that when the season started, but you've got to tip your cap, they've had a heck of a season over there." -- Servais, on how the A's have developed from the start of the year
Mike Leake (10-10, 4.10 ERA) has seen plenty of the A's this year and he'll take another crack at the AL West rivals in Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. PT matchup with Oakland lefty Brett Anderson (4-5, 3.96). The durable 30-year-old is one of just three pitchers -- along with Jonathan Lester and Max Scherzer -- to have reached 30 starts for seven straight seasons from 2012-18 and now faces the A's for the fifth time this year, having gone 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA in the first four meetings.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.