Mariners’ 21-year playoff wait ends with Raleigh departure
SEATTLE — Cal Raleigh hit a game-winning two-out home run late in the ninth inning and the Seattle Mariners ended baseball’s longest playoff drought with a 2-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Friday night.
Raleigh, pinch for Luis Torrens, hit a 3-2 pitch from Domingo Acevedo (3-4) just inside the right-field foul post for a solo homer that sent the Mariners into the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Seattle’s on-field celebration lasted more than 10 minutes as fans and players lifted themselves from the burden of two decades without seeing their baseball team’s playoffs.
Indeed, the wait had been long – the last time the Mariners stepped forward to play games in the spotlight in October, the team was led by rookie Ichiro Suzuki and Edgar Martinez and coached by Lou Piniella.
As has been the case for most of this season with the Mariners, their 86th win and the one that sent them to the playoffs unfolded in the most stressful way possible. Seattle was unable to solve Oakland starter Ken Waldichuk and a chain of relievers for eight innings, held only by Ty France’s RBI double that scored Dylan Moore two hitters in the game.
Acevedo knocked out Mitch Haniger and Carlos Santana to open the ninth, but Raleigh hit his 26th homer of the season, the most ever by a Seattle catcher.
Along with securing a playoff berth, Seattle remained 1¹/₂ games behind Toronto for the top wildcard spot and a half game ahead of Tampa Bay as all three continue to jockey for the standings.
But the place in the classification did not matter that evening. It was about landing the final AL ticket and ending two decades without the guarantee of playoff baseball.
Seattle’s spot ended the longest active playoff drought in any of the big four professional sports, a dubious honor that now goes to the Sacramento Kings, who haven’t made the NBA playoffs since the 2005-06 season. The Mariners are still the only current team to have never played in the World Series.
The last time the Mariners reached the playoffs, they tied a major league record by winning 116 games in the regular season, but lost to the Yankees 3-1 in the AL Championship Series.
Seattle’s Logan Gilbert pitched a career-high eight innings, allowing three hits. His only mistake was a home run by Shea Langeliers in the second inning.
Gilbert has struck out 18 of the last 20 batters he has faced and has gone down the A’s in each of his last four innings. Seth Brown walked in the lead in the seventh but was taken out on a double play.
Gilbert struck out four and left the mound after the eighth to a standing ovation and the fans’ call for a run.
Matt Brash (4-4) retired a pair in the ninth and set the stage for Raleigh.