Felix, Seager, Hart lead M’s to 2-1 win over A’s

OAKLAND, Calif. — If Wednesday afternoon offered a preview of the American League’s wild-card game — and, yes, the Seattle Mariners still have some work to do — then postseason will start with a bang.

Kyle Seager and Corey Hart hit back-to-back homers in the seventh inning that enabled Felix Hernandez to outduel Jon Lester as the Mariners edged the Oakland A’s 2-1 at the O.co Coliseum.

This is what the Hunt for October feels like, Mariners fans, and Hernandez, after so many meaningless Septembers, is among the many who are reveling in the chase.

“It feels great,” he said. “I’m telling you, it’s fun. We came here to win the series. That’s what we did. Going up against Lester, I knew it was going to be tough.”

It was that and more.

The drives by Seager and Hart were no-doubt bombs against Lester and countered a towering homer by Adam Dunn against Hernandez in the fourth inning.

“You get that match-up,” Seager said, “you know it’s going to be hard to come by some runs. Fortunately, we were able to get two, which was enough with Felix and (Fernando) Rodney.”

Both starters pitched through the eighth before Rodney protected Hernandez’s victory with a one-two-three ninth inning for his 41st save in 44 chances.

Rodney’s save came roughly 18 hours after he nearly squandered a three-run lead Tuesday night before closing out a 6-5 victory.

“It was back-to-back games,” he explained. “I’m more comfortable. If you look at the last 14-15 games, I only pitched like four or five innings. You get inconsistent.

“But the more often I pitch, the better my command. I’m not going to miss the strike zone.”

The victory boosted the Mariners to 75-63 and pulled them to within one-half game of Detroit (76-63) in the battle for the AL final wild-card berth. The A’s are currently positioned for the first wild-card berth.

So, the two teams could meet again later this month in the wild-card game. If so, this preview be tough to top.

Hernandez (14-5) limited the A’s to one run and three hits in winning for the first time in four starts. Lester (13-10) gave up two runs and seven hits.

Both were magnificent; Hernandez was just a little better in ending a three-start winless streak and — this seems incredible — winning a post-August start for the first time since a 2-1 victory on Sept. 6, 2011 at Anaheim.

Since then: 0-9 in 12 post-August starts with a 6.19 ERA.

“I know, right,” Hernandez said. “(Gee whiz), what am I doing? But I’m happy. This game was for my wife. It’s her birthday today.”

It helped, possibly, that he was pitching in the East Bay. Hernandez is now 6-0 with a 1.98 ERA in nine starts at the O.co Coliseum since April 1, 2011.

“We’ve just got to score more,” A’s catcher Derek Norris said. “We can’t rely on a pitcher, Jon Lester or Sandy Koufax, to throw nine shutout innings.”

Manager Lloyd McClendon pointedly cited another possible reason for Hernandez’s success — a recent decision to provide extra rest for everyone in the rotation just prior to the September stretch drive.

McClendon believes that decision attracted excessive criticism during a 2-5 stumble prior to victories in the last two games.

“(Hernandez) was special today and, I might add, he was rested,” McClendon said. “I’m like (former basketball coach) Bobby Knight. When I die, you can bury me face-down. So all of you can kiss my (backside).”

That outburst might also reflect that McClendon, and all the Mariners, realized this wasn’t just another game. The Mariners won a September road series against a contender because their ace out-pitched the opponent’s ace.

“If you want to be the best,” McClendon said, “you’ve got to beat the best. It sounds cliche-ish. But it’s just the way it is. You’ve got to beat big pitchers.

“You’ve got to grind the at-bats out, and know they’re going to get theirs. Somehow, you find a way to win ballgames. We beat a real good pitcher today. We found a way to win a ballgame.”

More in Sports

Seattle falls short in 34-31 home loss to Atlanta

Russell Wilson rallied the Seahawks late, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a defeat.

Wesco and Cascade Conference athletes honored

Check out the 2017 all-conference teams.

Seahawks’ postseason hopes dealt a blow by loss to Falcons

Seattle will likely spend the rest of the regular season fighting for a playoff berth.

Seahawks’ battered secondary holds up against reigning MVP

Seattle’s secondary corrected itself despite stumbling early in the game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Seahawks’ grades from Monday’s 34-31 loss to Atlanta

Here’s how the Seattle Seahawks graded out in their 34-31 loss to… Continue reading

Locals on the Central Washington University football team

Four starters for the 11-0 Wildcats, who host a playoff game Saturday, hail from Snohomish County.

Missouri’s Porter Jr. out for the season with a back injury

The star freshman — a former UW recruit — will need 3-4 months to recover from surgery

BLOG: Carter Hart wins Goaltender of the Week

Everett Silvertips goalie Carter Hart was named the Western Hockey League Goaltender… Continue reading

Washington to play role of spoiler in Apple Cup

UW can ruin WSU’s chances of a Pac-12 North title and earn its 10th win on Saturday.

Most Read