At long last, the Seattle Mariners ended North American sports' longest postseason drought Friday, clinching an American League wild-card berth with a walk-off win to get back to the playoffs for the first time in 21 years.
That 2001 Mariners team – led by rookie MVP Ichiro Suzuki – won an MLB-record 116 games but lost to the New York Yankees in the ALCS for a second year in a row. Since then, Seattle hasn't played a postseason game.
The Mariners have come close through the years (staying in the race until the final game of 2021) but it's been a strange couple of decades in the Pacific Northwest, bereft of "SoDo Mojo."
Seattle managed to whiff on nearly every first-round pick for 15 years, their big acquisitions (Robinson Cano, Adrian Beltre) didn't pan out and it was just a steady stream of replacement level guys in and out of T-Mobile Park, née Safeco Field all these years.
SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE.
THE MARINERS END THEIR POSTSEASON DROUGHT WITH A WALK-OFF HOME RUN. pic.twitter.com/qcDM5JG1xx
— MLB (@MLB) October 1, 2022
Now, the playoff-less era is officially over and the 2022 Mariners could be a tough out with a deep rotation and lineup led by Rookie of the Year favorite Julio Rodriguez.
Here are some things to know about the Mariners' first postseason trip since 2001:
The Mariners barely celebrated their last playoff berth because of 9/11
Baseball shut down for a week after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks with the Mariners holding a 17-game lead in the AL West over the Athletics (who finished 102-60).
In the second game after the hiatus, Seattle clinched the division with a 5-0 win over the Angels at Safeco Field – featuring a subdued celebration just eight days removed from the attacks.
“I thought our players handled it very well,” manager Lou Piniella said after the Mariners' 106th win. “We wanted to remember the people that suffered through this past week… At the same time, we wanted to salute our fans for the way they’ve supported us all year.”
Jamie Moyer, then 38 and still more than a decade from retirement, pitched six shutout innings in the clincher, picking up his 18th victory in an eventual 20-win season.
Seattle has had 10 different managers since 2001
After a decade on the job Piniella departed after the 2002 season having led the Mariners to the playoffs four times from 1995-2001.
That started a revolving door in Seattle's dugout with the Mariners going through eight managers from 2003 to 2015. Current skipper Scott Servais has been a stable hand in his seventh year on the job.
The Mariners are on their 10th manager (including interims) since 2001:
Bob Melvin (2003-04): 156-168 record
Mike Hargrove (2005-07): 192-210
John McLaren (2007-08): 68-88
Jim Riggleman (2008): 36-54
Don Wakamatsu (2009-10): 127-147
Daren Brown (2010): 19-31
Eric Wedge (2011-13): 213-273
Lloyd McClendon (2014-15): 163-161
Scott Servais (2016-present): 523-502 thru Thursday
'King Felix' never pitched in a playoff game
Felix Hernandez debuted at 19 for the Mariners in 2005 and pitched 15 seasons for the club, winning the 2010 AL Cy Young award and receiving eight All-Star nods. One of the greatest pitchers of his generation, "King Felix" was a fan favorite in Seattle and threw MLB's most recent perfect game, in 2012.
Hernandez has a nice Hall of Fame case and should stick on the ballot beyond his 2025 debut – but he never pitched in the postseason.
“It drives me crazy," Hernandez said in 2016 – Servais' first year as manager.
Said Servais that spring: “Felix has never thrown a pitch in the playoffs, and it’s time. We’ve got a lot of work to do to get there. And he knows that as well.
"For a player to have that kind of career and to not have pitched in the playoffs yet, it’s up to us to make sure we get the pieces around him and it’s up to him to pull a few guys along with him. It’s going to be a joint effort.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Seattle Mariners make playoffs for first time since 2001