If there’s a fitting way to clinch a losing season, this sleepy walk-off disappointment Wednesday afternoon by the Mariners probably qualifies.
The end came when Mark Canha drove a one-out cut fastball from Shae Simmons over the left-field wall in the ninth inning for a homer that lifted the Oakland Athletics to a 6-5 victory at the Oakland Coliseum.
The loss dropped the Mariners to 77-82 and ensured they will finish with a losing record for the sixth time in eight years. They close the season this weekend with three games at Anaheim.
The Mariners slopped their way through the early innings as the Athletics built a 5-2 lead against Erasmo Ramirez who, while not blameless, deserved better.
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“Not as sharp as he has been,” manager Scott Servais said. “We didn’t play great defense behind him. He committed one error. We kicked a ball in center field. Some balls fell in that we have been catching and turning into outs.”
Robinson Cano’s two-run homer in the eighth inning pulled the Mariners back to even, and they saw a promising opportunity in the ninth inning slip away when pinch-runner Gordon Beckham was called out at third on a close play.
“The replay call at the end certainly did not go in our favor,” Servais said. “As many times as you look at it, I guess it depends what color uniform you have on as to how you saw the play.”
Beckham was at second base after replacing Mike Marjama, who punched a one-out double into right field against Athletics closer Blake Treinen. It was Marjama’s second hit in his first big-league start.
Jacob Hannemann followed with a grounder behind Beckham to shortstop Marcus Semien, who threw to third. Beckham tried for swim slide around the tag by third baseman Matt Chapman.
Crew chief Ted Barrett called Beckham out and, after a lengthy replay review, the call stood. Instead of first and third with one out and top of the order coming up, the Mariners had only a runner at first base with two outs.
It was that kind of almost/not quite day.
The Athletics scored a soft run in the first inning after left fielder Ben Gamel failed to catch Matt Joyce’s one-out pop while avoiding a near collision with third baseman Kyle Seager. The ball fell for a double.
Joyce went to third on Jed Lowrie’s single and scored on Khris Davis’ sacrifice fly to right center. Hannemann raced over from center and called off Haniger but made an off-line throw to the plate.
Haniger might have had a better chance to throw out Joyce.
More sloppy defense led to another Oakland run in the third inning after Franklin Barreto led off with a drive that fell in front of Hannemann, who knocked the ball away by misplaying the pickup.
It probably should have been a single and a two-base error, but it was scored a double and a one-base error. Either way, Barreto wound up and third and scored on Semien’s sacrifice fly.
The Mariners drew even in the fourth inning against Oakland starter Kendall Graveman when Cano lined a one-out single to center, and Nelson Cruz followed with a low liner that stayed just fair for a two-run homer to left.
“I thought it was going to foul,” Cruz admitted. “It hooked late.”
The ball was hit too hard, a 117-mph exit speed, to hook any sooner.
It was Cruz’s 38th homer of the season and pushed his league-leading RBI count to 117. His previous career high was 108 in 2014.
The tie didn’t last.
Another error, this one by Ramirez himself, fueled Oakland’s three-run answer later in the fourth.
Ryon Healy led off with a double that a diving Haniger reached but couldn’t hold. Matt Chapman followed with a sharp grounder back to the mound that Ramirez knocked down.
Ramirez recovered in time to make a play but rushed a wild throw to first for an error.
“I was kind of lost,” Ramirez said. “When I failed to catch it, I believed the ball was going to be in front of me. So I tried to find it. When I threw it, the ball released (wrong from) my hand.
The Athletics regained the lead when Bruce Maxwell grounded a single up the middle and, when Hannemann was slow to the ball, Chapman raced to third. That turned Canha’s drive to right into a sacrifice fly.
Joyce’s two-out double added another run and boosted Oakland’s lead to 5-2.
▪ Surgery likely for Heredia: Outfielder Guillermo Heredia will seek a second opinion, but he he appears headed for surgery to repair a subluxation of his right shoulder. That is his non-throwing shoulder.
A typical rehabilitation program for such a procedure should last most of the offseason, but Heredia should be fully recovered by the start of spring training.
Heredia, 26, hasn’t played since Sunday and ends the season with a .249 average and .315 on-base percentage in 124 games. He also graded out defensively at plus-4 runs above average.
▪ Paxton is 50-50 for Sunday: The Mariners still list left-hander James Paxton as their projected starting pitcher for the season finale Sunday against the Angels, but Servais said, “I would say there’s a 50-percent chance that he does (start).”
Paxton indicated Tuesday night that he’d like to start again after pitching 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision against Oakland. He gave up three runs and six hits in what marked his third start since returning from a five-week stay on the disabled list.
“Every time I go back out there,” he said, “I feel I’m getting better and better. I feel like one more time out, and I’ll be back to where I was.”
Lefty Andrew Albers looms as the likeliest alternative if the Mariners choose to sit Paxton.
▪ 38 and counting: Cruz still has a chance to reach 40 homers for a fourth straight year. At this point, Oakland’s Khris Davis is the only person to hit 40 homers last season and this season.
Cruz is the only player to hit 40 or more homers in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
The Mariners close the season with three games in Anaheim, where Cruz has 17 homers in 78 career games. The 17 homers are Cruz’s highest total in any stadium as a visiting player.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners