Rangers earn pivotal win over Mariners
SEATTLE — The way things are going lately for the Seattle Mariners, even a safety squeeze proved a little too dangerous Tuesday night.
Seattle’s Guillermo Heredia aborted a bunt attempt in the seventh inning, and Texas catcher Robinson Chirinos picked off Yonder Alonso at third base in a tie game, killing a would-be rally in the Rangers’ 3-1 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field.
Texas then struck in the eighth with a Shin-Soo Choo sacrifice fly and an Elvis Andrus RBI single for the winning runs in a key matchup with playoff implications.
The Rangers (74-76) pulled to within 3 1/2 games of the Minnesota Twins for the second American League wild card. Seattle (74-77) remained four games out of the postseason chase after its fourth consecutive loss.
And much of it boiled down to Chirinos’ quick throw to third baseman Drew Robinson to get Alonso.
“For Robinson to get back (to third base) and then Chirinos to make a great throw, especially to Robinson on the move, it was an A-plus play, all the way around,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.
Mariners manager Scott Servais refused to pin the blame on Heredia, as the pitch was out of the strike zone.
“At that point of the game and where we were at, it was worth a gamble,” Servais said. “Heredia did the right thing (pulling back on the bunt attempt). We were just too aggressive on the bases.”
As an added annoyance, Heredia eventually singled — a hit that would have brought home Alonso with the go-ahead run.
The Rangers opened up the decisive eighth against reliever Nick Vincent with a Carlos Gomez double to right. Delino DeShields then beat out a bunt, with pinch runner Will Middlebrooks going to third.
Choo, a former Mariner, followed that with a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Middlebrooks for the go-ahead run. Andrus added to that by singling home DeShields.
Tony Barnette (2-1) earned the win in relief for the Rangers with two-thirds of a scoreless inning. The fifth Texas pitcher, Alex Claudio, earned his ninth save.
Vincent (3-3) took the loss after giving up two runs in one inning.
In the early innings, the contest shaped up as a duel between Texas lefty Martin Perez and Seattle right-hander Mike Leake, who each pitched well enough to keep the other team off balance.
Perez threw 6 1/3 innings in his longest start of September, allowing four hits and one run. He struck out four and walked one.
“He just managed the game very well,” Banister said of his lefty. “Pretty nice performance all the way around.”
Leake pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing six hits and one run with five strikeouts. It was the first time in four starts with Seattle that he didn’t earn the win.
The Rangers got on the scoreboard in the second inning as Adrian Beltre led off with a single to center and Nomar Mazara doubled him to third.
Joey Gallo followed with a grounder to short, scoring Beltre.
The Mariners finally got to Perez in the fifth. Heredia singled to center with two outs and Ben Gamel brought him home with a double deep into the right-center gap to tie the game 1-1.
But it wouldn’t be enough in a loss the Mariners couldn’t afford this late in the season.
“It was a disappointing night, obviously a chance to gain ground in this race and you lose another day,” Servais said. “You don’t lose ground, but you lose a day. That’s a big thing right now.”
NOTES: Mariners manager Scott Servais indicated that RHP Felix Hernandez would likely be held to a pitch count of 70-80 on Wednesday in his second start since returning from bursitis in his pitching shoulder. ... Mariners RHP Hisashi Iwakuma told the Seattle Times he has structural damage in his right shoulder, and Servais said it was doubtful Iwakuma can return this season. ... Texas CF Carlos Gomez made his first appearance after suffering a sprained ankle Sept. 9, appearing as a pinch hitter in the eighth and hitting a double into the right field corner. ... Texas DH Adrian Beltre, still recovering from a strained hamstring, went 2-for-4 with a run, his second straight multi-hit game. He returned to the lineup Sept. 13 after missing 11 games.