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Mariners hit walk-off home run to end longest play-off drought in American sports
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Ben Spratt
Stats Perform
The Mariners celebrate ahead of their return to the postseason
The Mariners celebrate ahead of their return to the postseason

The wait is finally over: the Seattle Mariners are returning to the MLB playoffs after 21 years in the wilderness.

The Mariners had been enduring the worst active postseason drought not just in baseball, but in any of the four major sports in the United States.

So desperate had this sequence of failure been, all but one of Seattle's MLB rivals – the Cincinnati Reds – had also won a playoff series since the Mariners' 2001 run.

It would have been difficult to imagine at the end of that 2001 season the Mariners would not be back in the postseason until 2022; Seattle finished with a 116-46 record, setting a new American League benchmark for wins in a single season and matching the all-time MLB high.

But now, after a late-season wobble prompted fears of a repeat of last year's agony when the M's finished two games back in the Wild Card race, the drought is over.

Seattle had lost eight of their previous 11 games before beating the Texas Rangers on both Wednesday and Thursday – results that, combined with back-to-back defeats for the Baltimore Orioles, left the Mariners only one game away heading into Friday.

Either defeat for the Orioles at the New York Yankees or victory for the Mariners over the Oakland Athletics would do, and after the Orioles briefly kept their season alive, the Mariners got the job done in the most storybook fashion imaginable.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Cal Raleigh hit a walk-off home run to win 2-1 and send the Seattle fans into raptures as a 21-year weight was lifted off their shoulders.

Seattle happily fell well short of the all-time record for most consecutive seasons missing the playoffs, held by the St Louis Browns between 1903 and 1943 – but there are still several miserable streaks for the Mariners to snap.

They remain the only team in the major leagues never to have been to a World Series, with this their 45th season, while the Houston Astros' dominance in the AL West means Seattle's wait for a first division title since 2001 will go on.

That is the worst run in the AL, but three NL teams – the Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates – will this year see their division droughts reach 29 years.

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