M’s top A’s, stay alive in wild-card hunt

SEATTLE — All they can do is win and wait.

The Seattle Mariners have taken care of the winning aspect lately.

It’s the waiting that might be a little more difficult to deal with over the next few days.

In a situation where they basically need to win every game to give themselves a chance at the postseason, the Mariners picked up a must-win with relative ease Friday night at Safeco Field.

The Mariners used four homers — two from Robinson Cano — and a solid outing from starter Taijuan Walker to roll to a relatively undramatic 5-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics.

Seattle improved to 86-74 with two games left in the season.

In the wild-card race, they got some help with the Red Sox rallying to defeat the Blue Jays (87-73). But both the Orioles (88-72) and Tigers (86-73) won their respective games.

So the Mariners sit one game behind the Blue Jays for the second wild-card spot and a half-game behind the Tigers, who still have three games left in the regular season.

About 20 minutes after receiving the award as the Mariners’ most valuable player this season, Cano continued to exhibit why he earned that honor.

With Norichika Aoki on first base, Cano crushed a 1-1 fastball from Oakland starter Raul Alcantara over the wall in center field for his 37th homer of the season and a quick 2-0 Mariners’ lead.

Seattle added to the lead via the long ball from the least expected person.

With two outs in the second inning, Aoki, not known for his power, hammered a 0-1 fastball from Alcantara deep past right field and off the digital scoreboard below the Hit It Here Cafe.

The Mariners continued to stretch the lead via the long ball.

Cano hit his second homer of the night to lead off the third inning, driving a 1-0 changeup over the wall in center.

It gave him 38 homers on the season and it was his 100th RBI.

With Cano inching in on his home-run lead, Nelson Cruz added to his total, slamming a ball over the wall past center field just out of the reach of Jake Smolinski, whose leaping catch attempt came up just short.

The ball actually bounced off something behind the wall and went back into the field play, causing Cruz to pause at second.

But umpires awarded him a homer on the field and later confirmed it via replay to make it 5-0.

A’s reliever Zach Neal replaced Alcantara and shut the Mariners bats down, retiring 15 consecutive batters.

Despite some command issues leading to a season-high five walks, Seattle right-hander Taijuan Walker was able to use the ample run support and get through six complete innings, allowing just one run on two hits with three strikeouts.

That lone run came in the sixth inning with the Mariners leading 5-0.

Walker left a 1-1 fastball out over the plate to Ryon Healy that was turned into a solo homer.

The Mariners’ bullpen was flawless with Evan Scribner, Nick Vincent and Steve Cishek each working scoreless innings to close out the game.

M’s honor top minor-league performers

The Mariners have announced their 2016 minor league award winners. The revamped awards under new director of player development Andy McKay have been renamed to honor past players that had a major impact in the organization.

Several of the winners will be honored at Safeco Field before torday’s game vs. the A’s. Here are this year’s honorees:

Ken Griffey Jr. Minor League Hitter of the Year

Tyler O’Neill (OF: 2013 — 3rd round — Garibaldi Secondary, B.C)

The Mariners’ top overall prospect was an easy choice for the award. In his first season at the Class AA Level and just 21 years old, O’Neill dominated competition and made a run at the Southern League triple crown. He hit .293 (144-for-492) with 26 doubles, four triples, 24 home runs and 102 RBI in 130 games for Class AA Jackson, earning league most valuable players honors. The 102 RBI, led all Mariners minor league players. He was selected for the 2016 Futures Game and the Southern League midseason and postseason all-star team. Baseball America also selected him as the Southern League MVP and to its overall minor league All-Star team for all levels. He helped lead the Generals to the postseason and Southern League title, earning championship series MVP.

Jamie Moyer Minor League Pitcher of the Year

Andrew Moore (RHP: 2015 — 2nd round — Oregon State University)

He may not look imposing or possess overwhelming velocity, but the right-hander knows how to pitch and get outs. In his second professional season, Moore, 22, went 12-4 with a 2.65 ERA (48 ER, 163.0 IP) in 28 starts combined between Bakersfield and Jackson in 2016. In 163 innings, Moore struck out 133 batters and walked just 31. Opponents hit just .247 against him this season.

After accelerating to the Class AA level quickly, Moore flourished, going 9-3 with a 3.16 ERA (38 ER, 108.1 IP) in 19 starts with the Generals. He finished strong, posting a 6-0 record with a 1.99 ERA over seven starts ( July 17-Aug. 18). In the postseason, he made two starts, allowing two runs in 15 innings pitched, including nine shutout innings in Game 1 of the Northern Division finals.

Edgar Martinez Productive Team Plate Appearance Award

Dalton Kelly (INF: 2015 — 38th round — UC Santa Barbara)

A late-round draft pick as a senior, Kelly had a breakout season for the LumberKings and embraced the Mariners’ Control the Zone philosophy that was being preached by McKay and the new player development staff. Kelly reached base safely in 112 of 130 games with Clinton, hitting .293 (141-for-481) with 30 doubles, four triples, seven home runs, 58 RBI, 11 HBP, 63 walks and 21 stolen bases. His .384 on-base percentage was eighth highest in the Midwest League. He reached base safely in 29 of his first 30 games to start the season, including recording a season-high 13-game hitting streak.

He was named the the Midwest League mid-season All-Star team.

Alvin Davis “Mr. Mariner” Award

Zach Shank (INF: 2013 — 28th round — Marist College)

A late-round draft pick, Shank was considered an organizational utility depth player with a good approach. But he had an outstanding season, shuttling between Class AA Jackson and Class AAA Tacoma, hitting .290 (120-for-414) with 19 doubles, four triples, three home runs, 39 RBI, 35 walks in 120 games combined. Shank started the bulk of his games at third base, but also saw time at shortstop, second base and all three outfield positions. He was a valuable piece for the Rainiers with the constant roster shuffling and a favorite of manager Pat Listach for his tenacious style of play and energy on the field. It earned him the award that goes to the player “for his exemplary play and leadership skills both on and off the field this season.”

Dan Wilson Minor League Community Service Award

David Rollins (LHP: Selected by Seattle from Houston in the Major League phase of the 2014 Rule 5 Draft)

Rollins spent a majority of the season with Tacoma, but had five different big league call-ups, appearing in 11 games for the Mariners. He was one of the Rainiers most consistent relief pitchers, making 37 relief appearances, posting a 5-0 record with two saves and a 3.77 ERA (19 ER, 45.1 IP). He struck out 32 batters and walked six. Opponents batted .236 against him. He also earned the Rainiers Community Service award along with two other players for their work in the Tacoma area. Per the release, Rollins made several visits to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital over the course of the season, visiting with patients and their families, while also making numerous trips to Boys and Girls Clubs all over the South Sound. He also participated in numerous community events including youth baseball camps, speaking appearances and autograph sessions.

Dave Henderson Minor League Staff Member of the Year

Mitch Canham (Manager — Clinton LumberKings)

In his first season ever as a manager, Canham looked liked a veteran, leading to the LumberKings to the Midwest League title and a brilliant 86-56 record. The 86 wins was a franchise record — the previous high was 83 set in 1963 — and fifth most by any minor league team in baseball. Clinton defeated Peoria and then Cedar Rapids MWL playoffs before losing to Great Lakes in the best of five championship series. Canham, a Washington native and Lake Stevens resident, was a star catcher at Oregon State and a former first round pick of the Padres in 2007. He played eight seasons in the minor leagues before shifting to coaching.