A week to go and the Mariners are still kicking.
They got two home runs Sunday from an ailing Nelson Cruz and a two-run shot from a suddenly-hot Jesus Sucre and held on for a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
"Nothing is over until it’s over," said Cruz, who hopes to play Monday after leaving Sunday’s game because of a sore left wrist. "We’ve got to keep battling. Hopefully, at the end, we can come up and surprise a lot of people."
It’s still a long shot.
By winning, the Mariners (82-73) enter the season’s final week trailing Baltimore (85-71) by 2 1/2 games in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth. The Mariners also trail Detroit (83-72) by one game.
The Mariners and Tigers each have seven games remaining; the Orioles have six. The Mariners open a three-game series Monday at Houston, which is 82-74 and three games behind Baltimore.
"We need help," manager Scott Servais said. "We know that. But we’ve got to win the series (in Houston). Get down there, hopefully get the first game and go from there."
On Sunday, Taijuan Walker (7-11) pitched into the sixth inning before relievers Nick Vincent, Steve Cishek and Edwin Diaz nursed the one-run lead through the final 11 outs.
Diaz closed out the victory for his 17th save in 19 chances.
Walker said the tragic death of Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez early Sunday in an boating accident cast a pall over the game. Many players spent their time prior to the game watching news coverage on the clubhouse TVs.
"There was a lot of emotion from everything that happened," said Walker, who gave up three runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings. "I kind of had a hard time getting going. Everything felt kind of off."
The Mariners trailed 2-1 when Leonys Martin opened the fifth inning with a four-pitch walk against Minnesota starter Hector Santiago (12-10).
Sucre followed with a line-drive homer to left. It as Sucre’s first homer of the season and only the second of his career. Sucre had a double earlier in the game and credited a pre-game tip from hitting coach Edgar Martinez.
"He said (Santiago) likes to pitch inside," said Sucre, who is 10-for-14 since his Sept. 2 recall from Triple-A Tacoma. "That’s what I was looking for the whole time. And I put good swings on it when I saw it."
Cruz’s second homer came while leading off the sixth inning — and after he aggravated a wrist injury while swinging through the previous pitch. It was his 41st homer of the year and boosted his RBI count to 100.
"I’ve been dealing with it for four or five days already," he said. "Hopefully, it will calm down, and I’ll be able to go (Monday at Houston). When I extend it is when I feel it."
Cruz said the injury is different from the sore hand that plagued him a few weeks ago: "This is better because I still have my strength. It hurts, but the pain goes away, and I can (continue playing)."
The Mariners chose not to let Cruz bat in the eighth inning.
"Hopefully, he’s going to be OK when we get to Houston," Servais said. "It’s something he’s been able to manage. It’s been a little sore more on some days than others."
Walker exited after Juan Centeno’s one-out single later in the sixth closed the gap to 4-3. Vincent and ended the inning by getting two pop-ups.
PLAY OF THE GAME: The Mariners were clinging to a one-run lead when Steve Cishek put the tying run on base in the eighth inning by issuing a one-out walk to Robbie Grossman.
But Cishek then got Juan Centeno to ground into an inning-ending double play.
PLUS: The bullpen has pitched 12 2/3 scoreless innings since Edwin Diaz gave up a game-tying homer last Wednesday to Toronto’s Jose Bautista in the ninth inning…Nelson Cruz’s two homers boosted his RBI count to 100, which marked the second time in his career that he’s reached triple figures. He had 108 in 2014 while playing for Baltimore…the Mariners, at 82-73 with seven games remaining, have clinched a winning record for just the second time in the last seven years. They were 87-75 in 2014.
MINUS: The two players who batted in front of Nelson Cruz (Franklin Gutierrez and Robinson Cano) and the two players who batted behind him (Kyle Seager and Dae-Ho Lee) were a combined 0-for-16…Seager has one hit in his last 23 at-bats…two base-running mistakes hurt the Mariners. Shawn O’Malley didn’t tag up from third on Gutierrez’s one-out fly to right in the fifth inning. And Jesus Sucre failed to tag up from second base on a fly ball to the track in left-center field in the third inning.
STAT PACK: Nelson Cruz reached 40 homers for the third straight year. He had 40 in 2014 for Baltimore before hitting a career-high 44 last season in his first season with the Mariners.
Cruz is the fourth player in franchise history to hit 40 homers in multiple seasons. Ken Griffey Jr. did it six times. Jay Buhner and Alex Rodriguez each did it three times.
QUOTABLE: The Mariners play their next three games at Houston. They are 6-10 this season against the Astros, including 2-5 with four straight losses at Minute Maid Park.
"We haven’t matched up that great against them," manager Scott Servais conceded. "They’re athletic. Their bullpen has been pretty good. There’s a lot of things there…
" We need to play well. Whatever’s happened in the past, you can’t do anything about that. You’ve just got to look at the next three games and win the series."
SHORT HOPS: A foul tip by Robinson Cano in the first inning struck umpire Jerry Layne square in the mask. Layne left the game because of "concussion-like symptoms." Hunter Wendelstedt replaced Layne behind the plate, and the game continued with a three-man crew…the Twins have lost 100 games for just the second time since they moved to the Twin Cities in 1961 from Washington. They were 60-102 in 1982…But the Twins finished with a 4-2 edge against the Mariners and were 17-15 against AL West opponents…the Mariners are 40-38 on the road and pulled back to .500 in one-run games at 28-28.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners