Just before first pitch in Seattle, thanks to the New York Yankees closing out a 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Oakland Athletics had already secured a playoff berth — their first since 2014.
Like 2014, they’re headed to the Wild Card game — unless the Houston Astros collapse in the final week — but unlike 2014, they’re coming in with a head of steam.
Instead of limping to the finish, the Athletics are rolling. With a 7-3 win over the Mariners, who for much of the season stood ahead of the A’s in the Wild Card standings, Oakland (95-62) has now won 61 of its last 87 games.
Behind Daniel Mengden — making his first start since returning to the club at the end of August — the A’s hit four home runs, including the go-ahead shot by third baseman Matt Chapman in the top of the seventh.
Mengden started 16 games for Oakland before spraining his right foot in an abbreviated start against the Chicago White Sox on June 12. Since returning to the club at the start of September as the bulk guy in opener scenarios, Mengden had gone 1-0 in four appearances with a 1.83 ERA.
In the fifth inning on Monday, he took a liner off that same foot from Denard Span, but he stayed in the game and made it into the sixth. He wouldn’t make it out of the frame, as Dee Gordon tied the game with a two-run shot, one of three hits Mengden allowed in the inning, after allowing just one hit over the first five.
Ryan Buchter got Robinson Cano to strike out and, despite allowing a Nelson Cruz single to move the go-ahead run into scoring position, froze Span with a fastball to end the inning.
After Chapman’s two-run homer off Shawn Armstrong, Buchter ended up with the win. Fernando Rodney took care of the bottom of the seventh, allowing just a two-out single to Mike Zunino, and the visitors padded the lead in the eighth with a Matt Olson RBI single and a Marcus Semien sac fly, leaving little pressure for Jeurys Familia and Blake Treinen to record the final six outs.
Semien and Olson also teamed up on an excellent defensive play to rob Ben Gamel of a hit in the seventh, with an excellent backhand and throw by Semien and a scoop by Olson before Gamel reached the bag.
Neither starter factored into the decision, with James Paxton going four innings for Seattle (85-71) on a limited pitch count. He threw 71 and allowed a pair of solo homers, with Jonathan Lucroy taking him deep in the third for his 100th career homer, and Jed Lowrie leading off the fourth with a blast. Khris Davis added his league-leading 46th homer in the fifth, driving in his 120th RBI, which is good for second in the league behind Boston’s J.D. Martinez.
The Mariners had struck first with a Robinson Cano solo shot in the bottom of the first, but Mengden allowed just one more baserunner until the sixth. That sixth inning started with a Zunino double into the gap and was followed with Gordon’s fourth homer of the year and second in the past week. He also hit one against the Athletics on August 15.