Mariners 3, Rangers 2
(Seattle, WA) Not every game can be the biggest game of the season. Thursday night might not have been, but it very well could be the biggest game if the Seattle Mariners end up sneaking into the playoffs. It was another eight innings of frustrating offense for the Mariner faithful against a team that has absolutely dominated them this season in the Texas Rangers. Things were bleak and it looked like the M’s season would end in the most fitting way possible. However, the heart of the Mariners came up with a big hit to keep Seattle’s pulse alive as the Mariners walked-off the Texas Rangers 3-2.
Neither team got a single baserunner in the first two frames of this one. In the top of the 3rd, we would finally see a baserunner. With nobody on and one out in the top of the 3rd, Leody Taveras circled the bases for the first hit and run of this game. A challenge fastball from Logan Gilbert right down the middle was sent out into the J-Rod Squad section in center field for Taveras’ 14th home run of the season. One quick strike gave Texas the initial lead, 1-0.
Seattle would get their first baserunner in the bottom of the 3rd on a walk from Sam Haggerty, but he was left stranded at second. In the top of the 4th, Texas recorded their second hit and unfortunately for the Mariners, it was that of the same variety as the first. With again the bases empty and two outs, Logan Gilbert hung a slider in the middle of the plate to Adolis Garcia. He did not miss a single inch of the ball as Garcia sent a souvenir into the Mariner bullpen. It was the 39th home run of the season for Garcia and Texas extended their lead to 2-0.
Finally, the first hit of the game for the Mariners came leading off the bottom of the 4th. Just like the Rangers, the M’s first hit was a home run. A first pitch curveball from Jordan Montgomery was located pretty well down in the zone and on the outside corner. But Julio Rodriguez has some of the best opposite field power in the game and this pitch was not too much for J-Rod to handle. Julio smashed the ball the other way into right field and Adolis Garcia line up to try to rob the home run. The ball would go in and out of Garcia’s glove and hit the railing in right for Julio’s 32nd home run of the season. The solo shot immediately cut the deficit back down to one as Seattle trailed 2-1.
Another opportunity to tie the game up came in the bottom of the 6th for the Mariners. A one-out single by Jose Caballero turned the lineup over to J.P. Crawford. J.P. flipped a line drive down the left field for another base hit. Evan Carter was able to cut it off and came up throwing as Caballero tried to reach third. The throw was in time as Josh Jung tagged out Caballero for the second out as the issue of runners being thrown out on the base paths continued to plague the Mariners just as it has all season. Julio would then groundout to end the inning as Seattle continued to trail.
While Seattle continued to struggle to find the tying run, the pitching staff was phenomenal. Led by Logan Gilbert, the staff gave the offense ample time to try to even up the score. Gilbert was again so good, going six innings and allowing two runs on just three hits with no walks and five strikeouts. The bullpen was even better as the trio of Isaiah Campbell, Gabe Speier, and Andrés Muñoz pitched three innings of pure dominant baseball. Only one Ranger reached base in those innings and it was via the walk. In total, the trio struck out four batters and sent the game to the bottom of the 9th with Texas still leading 2-1.
Aroldis Chapman came in to pitch the bottom of the 9th for Texas. A win for Texas would send them to the playoffs and a loss for the Mariners would virtually eliminate them from playoff contention. Chapman did not have his best stuff as Seattle immediately put pressure on him. Back-to-back singles to begin the inning by Cal Raleigh and Dylan Moore put the tying run at second and the winning run on first. They would both move up on a wild pitch, but Ty France drew a walk anyway to load the bases with nobody out. Sensing trouble, Ranger manager Bruce Bochy went back to his bullpen and brought in Jonathan Hernandez in a season defining spot.
So many times this season, Seattle has wasted bases loaded opportunities especially with less than two outs. Mike Ford pinch hit for Sam Haggerty to welcome Hernandez to the game, but Ford couldn’t get the job done. A weak pop fly to shallow center field was put away by Leody Taveras and kept Raleigh at third with one out. Josh Rojas followed with a pop up in foul territory and third baseman Josh Jung made a fantastic catch over his shoulder for the second out and again kept Raleigh at third. It felt like Seattle was about to waste a bases loaded, nobody out opportunity to end their season which would have been hauntingly appropriate. J.P. Crawford was the last hope for the Mariners and got a call on a very borderline pitch to move the count to 1-1. A sinker ran back towards the middle of the plate and Crawford drove it the other way down the left field line. The ball hung up for what felt like forever as Evan Carter tried to flag it down. Fortunately, the ball dropped on the warning track for a base hit. Raleigh and Moore both score before Carter could even pick up the ball as the M’s swarmed Crawford at second base as he came through with a two-out, two-run single to give the Mariners a 3-2 walk-off win over the Rangers.
A massive win for the Seattle Mariners (86-73) keeps them alive and in a much more realistic spot to make the playoffs. While it still would take a perfect finish to the season to win the division, the M’s are just one game back of Houston for the final AL Wild Card spot. That means the Mariners need to either sweep the Rangers and hope Houston loses one of three or more to Arizona. Or, the Mariners can take two of the remaining three against Texas and Houston would have to lose two of three. Seattle and Texas (89-70) will continue their four-game series on Friday at 7:10pm. Seattle will rely on a rookie in game two as Bryan Woo (4-5, 4.39 ERA) will have to figure out his Texas sized problem. This will be Woo’s third start against the Rangers and the first two did not go well. In 5 1/3 innings against Texas, Woo has allowed 12 runs on 12 hits with three walks and ten strikeouts. Nathan Eovaldi (12-4, 3.26 ERA) will also make his third start of the season against the Mariners. He has had mixed results in the first two outings. In the first, Eovaldi went six scoreless innings of one hit ball with no walks and seven strikeouts. However, the last time he faced Seattle, Eovaldi went just five innings and allowed five runs on six hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
- Adolis Garcia- 1-3, HR, RBI, R, BB
- Leody Taveras- 1-3, HR, RBI, R
- Jordan Montgomery (ND)- 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO
- J.P. Crawford- 2-5, 2B, 2 RBI
- Julio Rodriguez- 1-4, HR, RBI, R
- Logan Gilbert (ND)- 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO