It indeed had been a long wait — the last time the Mariners advanced to play spotlight games in October, the team was led by rookie Ichiro Suzuki and Edgar Martinez and managed 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 back to the playoffs happened in the most stressful way possible. Seattle was unable to solve Oakland starter Ken Waldichuk and an assembly line of relievers for eight innings, held to only Ty France’s RBI double that scored Dylan Moore two batters into the game.
Aside from the clinching a spot in the postseason, Seattle stayed 1½ games behind Toronto for the top wild-card spot and one half-game ahead of Tampa Bay as the three continue to jockey for seeding.
But the place in the standings didn’t matter on this night. It was all about punching the final American League ticket and ending two decades without playoff baseball.
Seattle’s berth ended the longest active playoff drought in any of the four major professional sports, a dubious honor that now falls to the Sacramento Kings, who have not made the NBA playoffs since the 2005-06 season. The Mariners are still the only current team never to have played in the World Series.
The last time the Mariners reached the postseason 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.
Gilbert retired 18 of the final 20 batters he faced and set down the A’s in order in each of his final four innings. Seth Brown walked leading off the seventh but was retired on a double play.
Gilbert struck out four and walked off the mound after the eighth to a standing ovation and the plea from fans for a run.
Matt Brash (4-4) struck out a pair in the ninth and set the stage for Raleigh.