ARLINGTON, Texas -- — The Texas Rangers secured a crucial three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners in the tight AL West by hanging on through a rough patch from a bullpen that not long ago threatened to derail a promising season.
Suddenly 2 1/2 games up in the division after a 9-8 victory in their home finale Sunday, the Rangers hit the road for the final seven games looking to wrap up the No. 2 seed in the American League playoffs and home-field advantage in a Division Series.
“I packed like a normal seven-day trip,” Texas starter Nathan Eovaldi said. “We can always buy more clothes on the road. Yes, it’s a lot more clear. But we still have a lot of work that has to be done.”
Texas (85-70), in its first winning season since 2016, won its fifth consecutive game while defending World Series champion Houston, which started the weekend with a half-game lead in division, was swept at home by 102-loss Kansas City.
Teoscar Hernández, who homered, drove in two runs for the Mariners along with Jarred Kelenic and Eugenio Suárez. Seattle nearly erased deficits of five and four runs before getting swept for the second time in three series.
Seattle (84-71) trails Houston by a half-game for the third and final wild card.
The Mariners play their final seven games at home, starting with the Astros on Monday before meeting Texas again in a season-ending four-game series. The Rangers start the week at the Los Angeles Angels.
“We will turn the page,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “We will let it go. I know there will be 45,000 of our closest friends there helping us out the way they can. It’s going to be super exciting. What can I say?”
Texas reliever Chris Stratton gave up consecutive two-out RBI singles to Hernández, Kelenic and Suárez as Seattle closed to 9-8 in the seventh before Jonathan Hernández came on to get pinch-hitter Dominic Canzone on a popout.
José Leclerc finished for his fourth save, with first baseman Nathaniel Lowe making a nifty snag of a sharp grounder down the line from pinch-hitter José Caballero for the final out with the potential tying run at second base.
“We got through it,” Texas manager Bruce Bochy said. “We used a lot of pitchers, but we found a way to get through it. Great series. Entertaining series. A lot of drama.”
That bullpen was a big part of the reason the Rangers dropped as far as three games back earlier this month after leading the division all but one day of the season into late August, but Texas got the crucial outs needed in all three games to improve to 8-1 against the Mariners this season.
“We did what we were hoping to do,” Bochy said. “To get a sweep, that’s tough to do against a good club like Seattle. We have seven games left here so we’re in better position than … not too long ago. Just shows you the fight in this club, the determination.”
Semien hit his 10th leadoff homer this season, extending his club record. The drive came off Bryan Woo, who gave up a double to Semien and a single to Seager on the first two pitches of his major league career in his debut at Texas in June.
A solo shot in the fourth gave Semien his third multi-homer game this season, all in September, on a drive to center that caromed out of the glove of Julio Rodríguez and over the wall.
Semien's 27th homer that could have been an out on a spectacular play gave him 178 hits for the season, but Rodríguez retook the AL lead with two hits for 179 as they jockey for tops in the league in that category.
“No, I think it was more Julio saying I owe him one,” Semien, a second baseman, said when asked if his teammates said anything in the dugout. “I don't think a ball at second base can get over the fence, so I'll have to figure out a way to give him something back.”
Seager's 33rd homer gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead in the third, and Taveras ended Woo's outing with his 13th home run, a two-run shot in the fourth.
Woo (4-5) matched the six runs he allowed in his debut against the Rangers, in 3 1/3 innings this time after lasting just two innings in Texas' 16-6 win on June 3.
Eovaldi (12-4) won for the first time since July 18, making his fifth start since missing seven weeks with a right forearm strain. He left with the bases loaded and a 7-2 lead in the sixth, but ended up allowing five runs in five-plus innings.
The Rangers drew 35,412 fans to finish the season at 2,533,044, an average of 31,272. The total was the club's largest since 2016, the last time Texas had a winning record. The Rangers saw a 26% increase from last season, the biggest year-to-year jump since a 31% increase from 1995 to 1996.
RHP Luis Castillo (14-7, 3.06 ERA) pitches for Seattle against Houston. He is fourth in the AL in ERA.
RHP Jon Gray (8-8, 4.22) is set for Texas to open a three-game series at the Los Angeles Angels on Monday. He hasn't made it through the fourth inning in any of his past three starts.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb
- Home Plate Umpire - Alan Porter
- First Base Umpire - Mike Muchlinski
- Second Base Umpire - Sean Barber
- Third Base Umpire - Jim Wolf