Sunday, May 28

Cal Raleigh walk-off homer with two outs in ninth clinches playoff spot for Mariners

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – SEPTEMBER 29: The Seattle Mariners celebrate after beating Texas Rangers 10-9 during the eleventh inning at T-Mobile Park on September 29, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners are heading back to the postseason in storybook fashion.

Cal Raleigh delivered a pinch-hit, walk-off home run off Oakland Athletics reliever Domingo Acevedo on a full count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Mariners to a 2-1 victory on Friday night.

The win clinches the first playoff berth for the franchise in 21 years, snapping the longest playoff drought of any team in the “Big Four” North American sports.

The last time the Mariners were in the postseason was on September 30th, 2001, Tom Brady was making the first start of his NFL career for the New England Patriots. The original iPod was still just under a month of away from being released as well. 

The Orioles didn’t gift the playoff spot to Seattle by losing in New York. Instead, Baltimore held off the Yankees for a 2-1 victory to force the Mariners to get the job done themselves with a win over the A’s.

And boy did they ever.

Raleigh entered in place of Luis Torrens with two outs in the ninth after Acevedo had struck out Mitch Haniger and Carlos Santana to put the game on the verge of extra innings. Raleigh had swung over a pair of sliders by Acevedo as the count worked full before launching the winning shot just inside the foul pole down the right field line.

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Raleigh flipped his bat high in the air and the Mariners stormed the field in celebration as the drought officially came to a spectacular close.

Logan Gilbert pitched a gem for Seattle. He allowed just one run on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts over a career-high eight innings of work for the Mariners. The lone run came on a solo home run from Shea Langeliers in the second inning. 

Meanwhile, the Mariners couldn’t solve Oakland starter Ken Waldichuk either. Waldichuk struck out eight over five innings for the A’s. He allowed one run on three hits with Dylan Moore scoring on a Ty France double in the first inning.

Carlos Santana was left stranded at second base after a one-out double in the fourth, and Luis Torrens was stranded at second in the seventh.

J.P. Crawford and Eugenio Suárez each grounded into double plays in the fifth and eighth innings, respectively, as the Mariners offense couldn’t cash in.

Matt Brash worked a clean inning in relief of Gilbert in the ninth inning to give the Mariners a chance to end it in the bottom half of the inning. Raleigh’s heroics then put an exclamation point on the death of the drought.

The Mariners have not played in the postseason since their magical 116-win season in 2001 that remains tied with the 1906 Chicago Cubs for the most wins in MLB history. They felt short of the playoffs each of the next two seasons despite 93-win campaigns. An 88-win season in 2007 wasn’t enough, nor was 89 wins in 2018 or 90 wins last season.

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But with MLB expanding the postseason to six teams in each league this year, the Mariners finally had their postseason drought snapped after 21 years.

When Seattle first made their initial postseason appearance in 1995 as the “Refuse to Lose” Mariners, they overcame a 13-game deficit to the California Angels in early August, Dave Niehaus decried “19 long years of frustration is over” in his radio call of the one-game playoff victory that put Seattle is the postseason. 

An even longer postseason drought has now come to a close and Seattle will be playing playoff baseball once again.

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