By Ryan Divish / The Seattle Times
SEATTLE — And now the number is one.
Put simply, the Seattle Mariners are one win or one Baltimore loss from ending a postseason drought that they begrudgingly inherited and finally understood it was their burden to carry.
Now they are one game from being the team that did what felt impossible at times over two decades of losing and frustration.
With their crazy 10-9 victory over the Texas Rangers in 11 innings on Thursday night, the postseason is within their grasp.
They could clinch a wild card spot on Friday night in front of what is expected to be sold-out crowed with fireworks scheduled postgame. Perhaps champagne will be added to the menu.
Mitch Haniger gives the Mariners an early 2-0 lead with a two-run homer to left field getting the Mariners on the board early in the first
Down 9-8 going into the bottom of the 11th, Dylan Moore singled to start the inning and move automatic runner Jarred Kelenic to third base. Pinch hitter Luis Torrens followed with a single to the right to score Kelenic.
After two failed sac bunt attempts from J.P. Crawford, Moore stole third base.
Crawford ended the game moments later with his line drive going off the glove of third baseman Josh Jung, allowing Moore to race home with the winning run.
With the Orioles losing to the Boston Red Sox, 5-3, on Thursday afternoon, the Mariners took the field for their season-series finale with the Rangers hours later, knowing their magic number for clinching their first postseason spot since 2001 was two games.
In the positioning race of those three wild card spots, the Toronto Blue Jays (87-69) were off and open three-game series vs. the Red Sox on Friday. The Mariners now hold the second wild card spot, sitting 1.5 games behind Toronto. The Rays (85-71) lost their second straight game in Cleveland and open a three-game series vs. the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
The game featured nine homers, including Haniger, who belted a pair of two-run homers and Kelenic, who hit a two-run homer and a solo homer.
Seattle got a shortened start from Marco Gonzales, who pitched five innings, allowing four runs on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
He struck out the side in the first inning and was aided by a slick double inning-ending double play in the seconding.
But all four of his runs allowed came in a disastrous third inning where he gave up 1,200 feet of homers to three different hitters. It started with a towering leadoff solo homer from Sam Huff (421 feet), a majestic two-run homer off the bat of Marcus Semien (400 feet) and a laser of a solo homer from Adolis Garcia (381 feet) that hit off the manual scoreboard in left field.
There were more than a few grumbles from angst-ridden Mariners fans, who watched a 2-0 lead turn into a 4-2 deficit in such overwhelming fashion.
But Haniger, who is the longest tenured Mariner on the roster, helped out the player he’s been teammates with the longest.
With Ty France on first base, Haniger took advantage of a hanging slider from Jon Gray, sending it into lower level of Edgar’s Cantina for a game-tying two-run homer.
Given a respite and a reset, Gonzales came back with a scoreless frame in the fourth.
Kelenic put him in line for the victory in the bottom of the fourth. Using his reworked and simpler swing, he stayed on an elevated fastball away, sending a flyball over the wall in left field for a two-run homer off Gray.
With the lead again, Gonzales answered with a 1-2-3 inning against the top of the Rangers lineup.
From there, manage Scott Servais turned it over his bullpen.
But the group of lockdown relievers couldn’t hold the two and then three-run lead that Kelenic provided them with his solo homer to right field in the sixth inning.
Brought in to face the top of the Rangers order in the seventh inning, Paul Sewald served up back-to-back solo homers to Semien and Nathaniel Lowe that cut the lead to 7-6.
Andres Munoz had to finish the frame for his teammate, but he wouldn’t be spared from the struggles. In the eighth, he allowed an infield single to Bubba Thompson and a single to right to Huff to start his problems. With runners on first and third and no outs, Munoz got Kevin Plawecki to ground into a 6-4-3 double play that allowed Thompson to score and tie the game at 7-7.