SEATTLE — Mike Zunino picked a perfect time to snap out of his slump.
Zunino delivered the go-ahead home run in the seventh inning and Seattle held on for a 3-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday night, keeping the Mariners on the edge of the AL wild-card chase.
“It’s nice to be in that spot and it’s nice to come through,” said Zunino, whose last home run was Sept. 11. “It’s nice when you go through struggles and work through it and get that opportunity and they go in your favor.”
Seattle is two games behind Baltimore and Toronto with three games to play. The Orioles defeated the Blue Jays 4-0 to pull even atop the wild-card race. Detroit, which was rained out against Cleveland, is a half-game ahead of the Mariners.
“We can only control what we do here,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We need help. We know that. I think everybody thought the way Toronto was playing, they’d probably win two out of three at home. Didn’t happen. The way we look at it, we’re still alive. We’ve got to win tomorrow’s game and again, pray for a little help.”
Zunino, hitting .139 over his last 25 games, opened the seventh with his 12th home run, sending a 2-2 pitch from Liam Hendriks (0-4) deep over the wall in left.
Seattle added a run in the eighth on a two-out single by Leonys Martin, a walk to Zunino and Ketel Marte’s RBI single.
Steve Cishek (4-6) came on to stifle an Oakland threat in the seventh with an inning-ending double play and added a perfect eighth. Rookie Edwin Diaz notched his 18th save, despite allowing a run and three hits in the ninth.
“I need to control emotions, try to make pitches and try to help the team win, to give us a chance to make the playoffs” said Diaz, who had blown two of his three previous save opportunities. “We are so close right now.”
The Mariners took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on three consecutive singles before running themselves out of the inning. Kyle Seager reached on an infield single when Kendall Graveman couldn’t find the handle on his two-out dribbler along the first-base line. Adam Lind followed with a single to center. Martin singled through the right side, scoring Seager from second. Martin continued for second, but was caught in a rundown. Lind was thrown out at home trying to score on the play.
Chad Pinder brought Oakland even in the sixth with his first career home run, a leadoff shot to left for the only run off starter Ariel Miranda.
Oakland had runners on first and third with one out in the seventh, but failed to score. Danny Valencia singled to open, but was forced at second on Brett Eibner’s fielder’s choice groundout to short. Yonder Alonso then singled Eibner to third. Cishek relieved and enticed pinch-hitter Max Muncy into an ending double play grounder.
“It came down to situational at-bats,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “We had runners at third with less than two outs, then we hit into a double play and two strikeouts . Our situational at-bats hurt us tonight.”
GOOD MONTH FOR MIRANDA
Although he did not get the decision, Miranda allowed just one run on four hits in 5 1/3 innings, striking out six. Miranda, acquired from Baltimore on July 31 in exchange for LHP Wade Miley, is 4-1 with a 2.62 ERA in six September starts. Over his last four starts, Miranda has held opposing batters hitless in eight consecutive at-bats with runners in scoring position.
A’s: RHP Raul Alcantara (1-2, 5.75 ERA) makes his fifth career start since being called up from Triple-A Nashville on Sept. 5. He faced Seattle on Sept. 11, giving up two runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings without a decision.
Mariners: RHP Taijaun Walker’s (7-11, 4.35 ERA) up-and-down season seems to be back on the upswing. Walker was 2-0 with 1.44 in four April starts, then went 0-5 in May and eventually was sent to Triple-A. He’s 3-1 in his last four starts.