Felix Hernandez, Mitch Haniger shine as Mariners thump Oakland

Hernandez had his best outing since returning from the disabled list, pitching six innings and allowing one run on two hits in a 7-1 victory over the Athletics. Haniger hit two home runs and Mike Zunino added a three-run homer.

OAKLAND, Calif. – Slightly more than 24 hours after being officially eliminated from the postseason, the Mariners were back on the field again. Yes, their playoff hopes had been extinguished and the overriding preseason goal went unmet, but there was still baseball left to play. Such is the nature of the 162-game marathon.

And while the 2017 season now has five games remaining, thoughts of the 2018 season and the chance to right all that went wrong this year were already coming to the forefront.

In that way, the Mariners’ 7-1 victory over the Athletics on Monday night at a largely empty Oakland Coliseum provided a glimpse/reminder for some optimism for multiple players expected to be key contributors next season.


M’s @ Oakland, 7:05 p.m., ROOT

“We aren’t going to the playoffs and that’s disappointing,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “But early as it is, you start preparing for next year.”

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Rookie outfielder Mitch Haniger continued his strong finish to his first full season at the big-league level, blasting a pair of homers, while catcher Mike Zunino, in the midst of the breakout year the Mariners always hoped for, crushed a three-run homer to provide a large portion of the offense.

“Those guys have had outstanding seasons,” Servais said. “Obviously, Haniger’s has been interrupted by the injuries and Zunino had a little stint in Triple A, but it’s great to see those guys finish strong and on a good note. They have a lot of confidence right now and we are certainly going to need them going forward.”

Oh, and this pitcher named Felix Hernandez, he had his best outing since returning from the disabled list, pitching six innings and allowing one run on two hits with two walks and two strikeouts to get the win to improve to 6-5 this season.

“Felix was really, really good,” Servais said. “And it was probably one of the worst bullpens he’s ever had when he warmed up for the game. Even Mel (Stottlemyre) said to me, ‘I don’t know if he can get through the first. He’s got nothing.’ ”

Instead, Hernandez pitched to contact and relied on ground balls and double plays —…

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