SEATTLE — Robinson Cano finally quieted the sea of blue-clad Toronto fans that had turned Safeco Field into a home environment for the Blue Jays.
Cano delivered a sacrifice fly in the 12th inning as the Seattle Mariners avoided a sweep with 2-1 victory over Toronto on Wednesday, preventing the Blue Jays from extending their wild card lead.
“We’ve got to keep fighting,” said Cano, as the Mariners won for the second time in six games to remain on the edge of the playoff chase. “Keep fighting, but at the same time, have fun. Not put pressure on us that we must win. Just play our game and keep battling.”
Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (10-15), who pitched five scoreless innings in his last start on Friday, came in on the 12th for his first relief appearance after 29 starts.
Guillermo Heredia reached on a two-base throwing error by third baseman Josh Donaldson to open the 12th. Ben Gamel followed with an attempted sacrifice bunt, and first baseman Ryan Goins appeared to have Heredia at third, but the ball popped out of Donaldson’s glove on the tag.
“I thought it was a risky play, but I felt we had to do it, because it was important for us to win the ballgame,” Heredia said through a translator. “As soon as I was at second base, I made up my mind that if he bunted the ball on the ground, regardless of where it was going, I was going to go to third base.”
Cano then followed with a run-scoring fly to left, quieting the decidedly pro-Blue Jays crowd, bolstered for the third straight game by thousands of fans from western Canada.
“We were the benefactor of some miscues by them,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “That happens, but you’ve still got to finish them off. Robbie had a nice at bat. Didn’t try to do too much. Just stay with the ball and take care of business.”
Nick Vincent (4-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.
“It was just one of those things where we made a couple mistakes and that generally happens most times in extra-inning games,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
After being blanked on two hits for eight innings, the Blue Jays tied it in the ninth on Jose Bautista’s 19th home run, a one-out solo shot to left off hard-throwing rookie closer Edwin Diaz.
“Anytime you can contribute makes it worthwhile,” Bautista said. “It was a big moment. It was one of the most electric pitchers in the game. I was behind in the count. I was simply trying to put the ball in play. His ball has some run. I just managed to get the head out and I connected.”
Seattle shortstop Mike Freeman prevented the go-ahead run from scoring in the 10th with a diving grab of Kevin Pillar’s one-out liner with a runner on third.
“I was just trying to do everything I could to prevent that run from scoring,” Freeman said. “Fortunately, we got that run across in the last inning, or that play doesn’t matter.”
Both starting pitchers were outstanding. Seattle’s Felix Hernandez who was tagged for six runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last start, allowed two hits in seven innings, striking out four and walking three in a 112-pitch outing.
When Hernandez came off the field after the seventh, he told nearby fans, “This is my house.”
“First of all, I’ve never seen so many Blue Jays fans in Seattle. That was unbelievable,” Hernandez said. “I knew I had to step a little bit more.”
In the last three seasons, Hernandez is 7-3 with a 2.73 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 15 starts in the month of September. He is now 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 21 innings in his last three starts against Toronto. Hernandez start was the 357th of his career, tying him with Freddy Garcia for most Major League games started by a Venezuelan-born pitcher.
Blue Jays: After an off day Thursday, Toronto heads into the A.L East gauntlet with two series at home, four games against the Yankees, followed by three against Baltimore, that has huge wild card implications. The Blue Jays then close the season with three games at first-place Boston. Toronto has not announced a starter for the first game of the New York series.
Mariners: Seattle is running out of time. The Mariners followed an eight-game winning streak by losing four out of five. Only one of their three remaining series is against a team ahead of them (Houston) in the wild card race. After a day off, the Mariners open a three-game series at Minnesota. LHP James Paxton (4-7, 3.88 ERA) starts the Friday opener. “The math is not good,” manager Scott Servais said. “We’re going to need some help and some other teams to help us along the way.”