SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners played the final game of the season in split screen.
Part of attention was transfixed on field and making sure the Mariners closed with a victory in the hope it had postseason meaning. The other was on the out-of-town scoreboard hoping for the result they needed in Texas.
"This was a very hard game to manage. I had one eye on the scoreboard and one eye on what was happening on the field. That was kind of tough," Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said.
The Mariners did their part with a 4-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels as Felix Hernandez put the final notch on what could be a Cy Young Award season by throwing five shutout innings to secure the American League ERA title.
Seattle started the day needing a win over the AL West champion plus an Oakland loss at Texas to force a one-game playoff on Monday for the AL's second wild card. The Mariners did their part, but the A's completed a 4-0 victory as Seattle was in the fifth inning and finished one game ahead of the Mariners.
It made for an awkward afternoon of emotions. The excitement and anticipation of possibly forcing a 163rd game was replaced by disappointment when the Oakland result went final.
Ultimately, the Mariners should be satisfied. Seattle's 87 wins in the first season of All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano were its most since 2007 and made September baseball relevant in the Pacific Northwest for the first time in a decade.
"To be able to play 162 games and every single one of them mean something, you can't ask for much more than that," Seattle's Dustin Ackley said.
The Oakland game was on in the Mariners video room but most players were getting updates from the scoreboard. Austin Jackson noticed at one point that Texas had runners on first and third and no outs. But he was left to wonder what happened as the Rangers score never changed from zero.
Oakland already led 2-0 when Hernandez threw his first pitch at 1:10 p.m. PDT. Fans at Safeco Field let out a collective groan and a smattering of boos when the A's took a 4-0 lead in the ninth inning. A brief "Let's go Texas!" chant started in the fifth inning with Hernandez on the mound but died off quickly.
At 2:46 p.m. PDT, the A's closed out their victory in Texas. The fans at Safeco Field responded with a brief standing ovation in the middle of Kendrys Morales' at-bat after the A's score was shown as final on the scoreboard.
Hernandez allowed just one hit — Albert Pujols broken-bat blooper in the first inning — and struck out seven. Hernandez (15-6) had a 2.14 ERA, bettering the 2.17 of Chicago's Chris Sale. Thanks to a scoring change announced on Saturday that changed four runs to unearned from his previous start, Hernandez entered the finale with a chance to pass Sale and win the ERA title.
Hernandez started the sixth inning getting C.J. Cron to ground out. McClendon gave Hernandez his moment in the spotlight, pulling him to a standing ovation with fans twirling the yellow "K'' towel handed out before the game. Hernandez tipped his cap and saluted the fans, appearing the fight back tears.
"We're going to build a great thing here," Hernandez said. "We've got the pieces. We're going to be good."
One out later, Cano was replaced to a standing ovation to complete his first season in Seattle after signing a $240 million, 10-year contract. Hernandez was the first at the top of the dugout to greet Cano, who hit .314 with 14 homers and 82 RBIs.
"I just thought, our fans should have an opportunity to thank them for the tremendous years both of them have had," McClendon said. "I thought our fans were just tremendous in that respect. Both of those guys grinded it out all year and they're big-time players and I thought they deserved that."
Michael Saunders had a pair of RBI doubles and Mike Zunino a two-run single to provide Hernandez run support and give Seattle a 4-0 lead after four innings.
Seattle had a 1 1/2-game lead for the second wild card on the morning of Sept. 7 but lost 12 of its next 17 games and dropped three games behind the A's with four to play. Seattle had three five-game losing streaks and lost eight straight in April, but remained in contention to the final day. The Mariners finished 41-40 at home and 46-35 on the road.