(CBS/AP) — Eric Wedge’s Seattle Mariners have been out of the postseason discussion for a while now.
That doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to play for.
Last week, Seattle was involved in a four-game series in Detroit against the AL Central-leading Tigers, and now the Mariners are taking on Kansas City, which has been in the thick of the race for a wild card. So these are big games — and Wedge, Seattle’s manager, wants to see how his players respond.
“Everything’s raised,” Wedge said. “Every game in professional baseball means something, but you do raise that level when you’re playing teams that are in the playoff hunt or are heading to the playoffs, especially at this time of year.”
The concept of the late-season spoiler exists in many sports, but it’s perhaps most celebrated in baseball. After all, even the worst teams win about 40 percent of their games, so there are no gimmes for teams chasing postseason spots.
And there may be nothing more exasperating for a team than falling short in a key game against an opponent that is well out of contention.
Here are a few of the most memorable spoilers in baseball history:
— RIVARLY RENEWED: The Giants and Dodgers have been involved in some of baseball’s greatest pennant races — and they have a way of making life tough for each other even when one of the two rivals is having a rough season.
New York dropped its final two games in 1934 to a sub-.500 Brooklyn team and fell two games short of first-place St. Louis in the National League.
The teams later moved west, and in 1991, the Dodgers finished a game behind Atlanta in the NL West. They were eliminated in their second-to-last game, when they lost to San Francisco.
In 1993, Los Angeles returned the favor. The Giants and Braves went down to the wire, with both teams winning over 100 games. On the final day, Mike Piazza homered twice for the Dodgers in a 12-1 victory over San Francisco — and Atlanta again took the division by a single game.
— SHUT DOWN: In 1962, the Dodgers led the National League by two games over the Giants with three home games against St. Louis still to come. Then the Los Angeles bats went silent.
Larry Jackson, Ernie Broglio and Curt Simmons pitched consecutive complete games for the Cardinals, holding the Dodgers to two runs in a series sweep that dropped Los Angeles into a tie with San Francisco. Then the Giants beat the Dodgers in a best-of-three playoff.
— GONE FISHIN’: The New York Mets blew late-season leads in 2007 and 2008 to miss the playoffs, and both times their season ended with a home loss to a nondescript Florida team in Game 162.
It was hard to tell which ending was more painful. In 2007, New York allowed seven runs in the first inning of an 8-1 loss to the Marlins. The following year, New York lost 4-2 to Florida, and because the Mets were eliminated from playoff contention, that game turned out to be the last played at Shea Stadium.
— PAINFUL IRONY: San Diego blew a playoff spot of its own in 2007, thanks in part to a familiar name. In the next-to-last game of the regular season, needing only one more strike to clinch a postseason berth, Trevor Hoffman allowed a tying triple to Milwaukee’s Tony Gwynn Jr., the son of the former San Diego star.
The Brewers went on to win that game and the one after it, forcing San Diego into a one-game playoff, which the Padres lost to Colorado.
— BEATEN IN BALTIMORE: In 2011, the Orioles were wrapping up about a decade of irrelevance when the Boston Red Sox came to town hoping to snap out of a late-season funk. In the final game, Baltimore scored two runs in the ninth to beat the Red Sox 4-3.
Meanwhile, the New York Yankees were the anti-spoilers that night. Already assured of an AL East title, New York blew a seven-run lead against Tampa Bay, enabling the Rays to edge Boston for the wild card.
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