ARLINGTON, Texas — On a sweltering, ruin-your-shirt night featuring the dug-in Texas heat of August in all its glory, neither the Mariners nor Rangers — two teams playing out the string — wanted to push into extra innings. Besides the heat, Seattle’s bullpen was torched from the three-game series with the Yankees and the Rangers didn’t arrive back from their road trip until 5 a.m. Thursday morning.
Nine would be just fine.
And it was the Mariners that deftly executed in the ninth inning, manufacturing the go-ahead run and adding an insurance run for an eventual 5-3 victory over Texas.
After dropping three in a row to the Yankees at home, the Mariners started the 10-game road trip with a win over a Rangers’ team that is in a similar rebuild mode this season.
In a season about opportunity and development, part of that growth is learning how to execute when asked in specific situations — like manufacturing a run instead of waiting for home run that may never come.
“You have to understand game situations and execute them,” manager Scott Servais said. “It’s what you’ve got to do.”
Tied at 3-3 in the top of the ninth, Dee Gordon led off with a single and stole second base, Mallex Smith worked a walk and J.P. Crawford executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runners into scoring position. While Servais doesn’t believe in using the sac bunt often, this is one of those times.
“Even if they didn’t give me the bunt, I was going to bunt because it’s the right play,” Crawford said. “I wanted to give my teammates a chance to score and win the game by getting them into scoring position.”
With runners on second and third and one out, Austin Nola drove in the go-ahead run with a deep sacrifice fly to center.
“I was really happy with Austin Nola’s at-bat,” Servais said. “It was a really professional at-bat. He’s been struggling a little bit and had some pitches to hit and fouling them off. But he didn’t let any of that bother him.”
Indeed, Nola came into the game with just four hits in his last 31 plate appearances and was hitless in his four at-bats in the game.
“I wanted to get it done for my teammates,” Nola said. “J.P. gave up himself to get the runners over and give me a chance. I just went up there and did my job, looking middle of the field and get a good pitch to hit.”
Omar Narvaez added a two-out bloop single to left to score Smith to provide an extra run of support.
The ninth-inning execution allowed right-hander Matt Magill, who worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning, to pitch a scoreless ninth to pick up the win.
“He was about our most rested guy down there,” Servais said. “We didn’t use him in the Yankees series. It was nice to get two innings out of him tonight.”
The Mariners got four scoreless innings from the bullpen with Taylor Guilbeau and Sam Tuivailala each pitching scoreless innings before Magill.
In his second start back from the injured list, Felix Hernandez gave the Mariners a serviceable start in the energy-sapping heat. He worked five innings, allowing three runs on five hits with a walk and three strikeouts, but took a no decision.
“It was a grind the whole game,” he said. “I was behind those guys on every single at-bat, but I was able to come back and make good pitches to get them out. I was fighting the weather, fighting myself and trying to be calm on the mound.”
Said Servais: “Felix did enough to get through five, which we really needed it tonight because we didn’t have a length guy. He got through it. His curveball was just okay tonight. That’s a pitch he leans on heavily.”
Texas grabbed a quick 1-0 lead off Hernandez in the first inning. Willie Calhoun crushed a 3-2 fastball that was left belt high and right over the middle of the plate, sending a rocket off the facing of the upper deck in right field.
Texas’ lead was short-lived. The Mariners loaded the bases against Texas starter Lance Lynn. Dylan Moore wore a pitch off his elbow to force the tying run across the plate. Lynn and the Rangers should have got out of the inning allowing just the one run after Dee Gordon hit a groundball to shortstop that seemed destined to be an easy double play. However, first baseman Logan Forsythe dropped the throw from shortstop Danny Santana. It allowed Daniel Vogelbach to score. Jake Fraley made a solid read, taking home as the ball squirted away from Forsythe. Seattle had scored three runs without a hit with runners in scoring position.
The Mariners didn’t do much else against Lynn, who worked the next four inning scoreless while allowing just three more base runners.
Texas answered with a run in the bottom of the inning. Again with two outs, Hernandez allowed back-to-back doubles to Scott Heinemen and Isiah Kiner-Falefa that made it 3-2.
With his third inning strikeout of Danny Santana, Hernandez pushed his career total to 2,506 strikeouts, passing Christy Mathewson and moving into 37th on the all-time list. Only six other active pitchers have recorded more than 2,500 strikeouts — CC Sabathia (3,080), Justin Verlander (2,949), Max Scherzer (2,649), Zach Greinke (2,585) and Cole Hamels (2,530).
The Rangers tied the game in the fourth inning, loading the bases with no outs. The Mariners came within a step of an inning-ending triple play on Heinemen’s hard ground ball to third. Seager stepped on the base, fired to Dee Gordon at second for out No. 2, but his relay throw to first was just a little too late. It allowed the run to score and tie the game at 3-3.
“It was so close,” Hernandez said of the near triple play. “I thought we had it.”
Hernandez then got Kiner-Falefa to pop out to end an inning. It was one run when it could have been so much more.
“That fourth inning was critical,” Servais said. “That really kind of turned the game back into his favor and then he got the 1-2-3 fifth, which is key as well.”