The Mariners’ slim playoff hopes moved a little closer to none after Toronto rode ex-Mariners J.A. Happ and Michael Saunders to a laughably easy 10-4 win at Safeco Field Tuesday night. The Blue Jays scored eight runs in the fourth inning while moving into sole possession of first place in the American League wild-card standings. Seattle (79-72) lost for the fourth time in five games – all against wild-card contenders – to remain three behind Baltimore for the second spot with 11 games to go.
For awhile anyway, the Mariners figured out a way to silence the many Blue Jays fans at Safeco Field with a 2-0 lead. But Toronto’s fourth, which took nearly 40 minutes, made for a six-run deficit to take the drama out of the Mariners’ biggest game of the year. Things were so out of hand – the Jays had seven consecutive hits, including a Saunders homer, and nine batters in a row reached base – that even the Canadians had to take a seat after all the screaming. Much bigger than a moment, it all but slammed the door on Seattle’s postseason chances.
Iwakuma seemed the best-suited to be on the mound in a game of this magnitude, but he failed miserably. He pitched three solid innings before unraveling in the fourth. He was charged with six runs (five earned) off eight hits over 3.1 innings. Two of the runs charged to him came after reliever Nick Vincent flopped even harder.
Vincent faced three batters without getting an out. The relievers who followed were pitching in a game already decided. Toronto had 14 hits and four home runs.
2B Robinson Cano finally came through with a big hit – a 140-foot, two-run triple. Cano’s second hit since Friday could have just as easily been ruled an error, as he hit a sharp ground ball that bounced off sliding 2B Devon Travis’s knee and ended up in the right field corner. That was the 2-0 lead.
Toronto is, in effect, no longer the team the Mariners are chasing. Another Baltimore loss meant Seattle is still three games back in the wild-card standings, only now the Mariners are chasing the Orioles for the second spot. Problem is, the Tigers and Astros, both two games back after Tuesday wins, are between the Mariners and the top two wild-card favorites. The Royals lost and appear to be on their way out of contention, while the Yankees are still hanging on by a thread after a win Tuesday.
“I want to say congrats to (J.A.) Happ, 20 wins. It’s hard to do at the big league level, the best baseball in the world. He’s had some kind of season, he’s going to keep going strong but it’s quite an accomplishment.” — Blue Jays manager John Gibbons
“That’s kind of been the story of our season: We’ve been really, really good, or we have some ugly nights.” – Mariners manager Scott Servais
Happ, the ex-Mariner, became baseball’s second 20-game winner after pitching five innings and allowing two runs off six hits. He improved to 20-4, recording his first 20-win season while joining Boston’s Rick Porcello (21-4) as the only pitchers to hit that milestone so far . . . Saunders hit his career-high 24th home run, a two-run shot in the fourth . . . Iwakuma entered the game with a career record of 4-1 and a 3.00 ERA against the Blue Jays. After Tuesday’s debacle, his career ERA versus Toronto was 3.43 . . . For those who didn’t make it past the fourth inning: There was a Justin Smoak sighting. The ex-Mariner was a defensive replacement in the bottom of the ninth. Smoak has 10 at-bats, and no hits, since Aug. 29.
The Mariners try to salvage one game out of a lost opportunity when the host Toronto in the finale at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday. RHP Felix Hernandez gets another chance in a big game. The Mariners are hope it goes better than the last. Hernandez (11-6, 3.79 ERA) is coming off a rough outing in a loss to Houston. Toronto will counter with RHP Aaron Sanchez (13-2). Sanchez had his start delayed by a blister on his finger.