ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Corey Seager and the Texas Rangers have talked all season about being resilient. There have been all of those injuries to their All-Stars, the loss of two starting pitchers with multiple Cy Young Awards and a late-season slide that knocked them out of first place.
After all of that, they are back on top in the AL West, for the first time in September and with nine games left in the regular season.,
Seager got the Rangers started with his 32nd homer and rookie Evan Carter added an early three-run blast in an 8-5 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night. The opener of a crucial series ended about the same time Houston lost at home.
“We talked about winning series all year. And that’s what it’s going to come down to. ... winning the next three three series,” Seager said.
“We said it in late August, that it’s going to be a dogfight all the way to the end. It’s kind of just the way we wanted it to play out,” catcher-designated hitter Mitch Garver said. “It’s just being diligent about our work and making sure that we’re taking every pitch seriously and making all these games count.”
The Rangers (85-68) and Mariners began the day tied for the American League’s third and final wild-card spot, and a half-game behind the reigning World Series champions for the division lead. But the Astros (85-69) lost to 102-loss Kansas City, dropping a half-game behind Texas and into that third wild-card spot. They were still a half-game ahead of Seattle (84-69), which dropped below the playoff line.
“The race is so tight. These games are going to be hard fought, back and forth,” M's manager Scott Servais said. “And you just have to keep believing you're never out of it.”
Seattle got a run in the ninth off hard-throwing Aroldis Chapman, who allowed three hits and a walk. He also struck out two but the bases were loaded when All-Star rookie third baseman Josh Jung’ made a nice snag for the game-ending grounder. Jung played only his fourth game since missing six weeks with a fractured left thumb.
It was the first of seven games between Texas and Seattle over the final 10 days of the regular season. The Mariners’ other three games are at home against the Astros.
After leading the AL West for 148 of the season’s first 149 days, Texas is in back in front for the first time since Aug. 29.
Seager, the AL’s leading hitter with a .333 average, snapped a 2-for-22 slide with a first-pitch homer in the first inning off rookie Bryce Miller (8-6). Carter also went deep on the first pitch he saw in the second inning of his 14th big-league game to put Texas up 4-0.
Rangers starter Dane Dunning (11-6) had allowed only one hit until the first three Seattle batters reached to open the sixth inning. Leadoff hitter J.P. Crawford had an infield single, Julio Rodriguez was hit by a pitch and Cal Raleigh followed with his 30th homer to get Seattle within 8-3.
Dunning gave up four runs over 5 1/3 innings, with two strikeouts and two walks. The Rangers scored six runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings against Miller.
The Rangers, who won their third game in a row since a 10-20 stretch that had knocked them out of the division lead, extended their lead to 8-0 in fifth when facing Miller and two relievers.
Miller was lifted with two runners on and an out before Tayler Saucedo gave up an RBI fielder’s choice grounder to the first batter he faced, and later walked batters in a row — the second was Jonah Heim with the bases loaded. Garver had a two-run single after Trent Thornton took over on the mound.
Texas then used three pitchers in the top of the sixth. But Andrew Heaney, the second reliever, needed only one pitch to get an inning-ending groundout right after Chris Stratton walked No. 9 batter Josh Rojas with the bases loaded.
Toronto (86-68) remained the AL’s second wild card after a 6-2 win earlier Friday at wild-card leader Tampa Bay (94-61).
Mariners: Rodriguez was hit by a 91.3 mph slider. The young star was clearly in discomfort after getting struck around his left elbow, but stayed in the game after getting checked on by Servais and a trainer.
Rangers: Reliever Josh Sborz, out since Sept. 5 because of a left hamstring strain, threw live BP before the game. Manager Bruce Bochy said Sborz looked sharp but didn’t have an update on the next step for the reliever.
Seattle RHP Logan Gilbert (13-6, 3.77 ERA), who has a 2.83 ERA in eight career starts against the Rangers, faces them in the middle game of the series Saturday night. Trade deadline acquisition lefty Jordan Montgomery (9-11, 3.38) pitches for Texas.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb
Stephen Hawkins, The Associated Press