ARLINGTON, Texas — In this stadium that is the definition of the modern major-league ballpark with two massive video screens, a sound system that can be heard on the moon and a retractable roof, usually closed to keep the sweltering summer heat out and keep in the din from a crowd, 33,463 fans at Globe Life Field were given an ending to reward their faith.
Jonah Heim, a well-traveled, switch-hitting catcher for his 26 years of age, having been traded three times and now in his fifth organization, hit a home run from each side of the plate Saturday night, but it was his blast from the left side that was particularly painful for the Mariners.
Leading off the bottom of the 10th with his team trailing by a run and the mandatory runner starting on second, Heim fell behind 0-2 to new Mariners closer Diego Castillo, who was working for a second straight night. After Heim battled back to even the count at 2-2, Castillo tossed up a 91-mph pitch that spun like a slider but didn’t break like one, staying right down the middle of the plate.
Heim demolished the mistake, sending it into the Rangers’ bullpen for a walkoff two-run homer and 5-4 win for the Rangers.
“We’ve been riding that magic wave in extra innings and I thought we had just enough left in our magic wand tonight,” manager Scott Servais said. “But not the case.”
A team that came into the game 21 games below .500, making a bullpen start because their best pitcher, Kyle Gibson, who was supposed to start Saturday, was traded to Philadelphia and their best hitter is now wearing Yankees gear, handed the Mariners a crushing defeat in a game they couldn’t and shouldn’t lose.
“Diego just left the ball in the middle and down,” Servais said. “He wanted to bounce that one and didn’t get it done and we paid the price. We made a mistake late to their hottest hitter right now. When you can get ahead in the count like that, you’ve really got to execute and we made a mistake.”
In a season with 162 games, it’s difficult to define a game as must-win on the last day of July with 57 left to play. But with a three-game series against the Rays, followed by a four-game series against the Yankees looming on this road trip, giving away a win to the team with the second-worst record in baseball is suboptimal. It was just the Rangers’ second win their past 16 games. They finish the month of July with a 6-18 record.
Yes, the Mariners have been on the other side of these wild outcomes more often than not. They came into the game with a 10-1 record in extra-inning games and a 23-8 record in one-run games.
And it looked like they would improve that record. Trailing 3-2 going into the top of the ninth, Ty France smashed a solo homer off Rangers recent addition Spencer Patton to tie the game. France crushed an 0-1 fastball off the facing of the upper deck in deep left-center over the visitors’ bullpen that measured at 442 feet.
In the 10th, J.P. Crawford, the emotional pulse of this surprisingly successful team, gave Seattle a 4-3 lead. Down 0-2 after swinging through a pair of mid-90s fastballs from Patton and looking less than comfortable in doing so, Crawford stepped out of the batter’s box, bent over, took a deep breath and then another before stepping back into the box. This time that elevated fastball wasn’t going to beat him.
He got on top of a 94-mph fastball from Patton, punching it through the left side of the infield, giving the Mariners their last lead.
“We are never really out of the game no matter what the score is,” Servais said. “If you can string some quality at-bats together and get some guys on base, we’ve been able to get that big hit. And we got some big hits tonight. Games like this often come down to one pitch and one pitch got us tonight.”
That the pitch came from Castillo, their new closer, will be a point of consternation since several players and fans are still irritated that the Mariners traded away their old closer, Kendall Graveman, to Houston.
It was the first run that Castillo had allowed in 11 appearances — 10 with Tampa and one with Seattle. And over those 10 innings pitched he’d struck out 11 batters and walked one while allowing two hits.
But while the Rangers’ winning runs came off Castillo, the Mariners should never have been in a comeback or a one-run situation. Their failures at the plate, scoring just two runs off four relievers in the first eight innings, tossing in a pair of costly baserunning mistakes to hinder rallies were major factors.
Making his debut for the Mariners and pitching for the first time since July 20, Tyler Anderson looked solid despite the 11-day layoff. He pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on six hits with no walks and three strikeouts.
He cruised through the first three innings, not allowing a base runner, with a pair of strikeouts and showing a mixture of pitches.
His new teammates even provided him with some early run support against Taylor Hearn, thanks to a replay review that went the Mariners way. France appeared to hit into an inning-ending double play with a ground ball to third baseman Charlie Culberson. Second baseman Andy Ibanez didn’t maintain contact with the second-base bag on Culberson’s throw and his subsequent throw to first. Mitch Haniger was ruled safe.
The free out brought Kyle Seager to the plate, and he made it hurt for Hearn and the Rangers. Seager hammered a 2-2 breaking ball left over the middle of the plate, sending his 22nd homer into the right-field seats for a 2-0 lead.
But that was all the run support Anderson would get in his outing.
“We weren’t able to put a lot together after the Seager home run,” Servais said. “And that’s where you need to create some space.”
Anderson finally allowed his first hit, a leadoff single to Rangers leadoff hitter Isiah Kiner-Falefa to start the fourth inning. Anderson coolly worked his way out of the jam despite a sac bunt and a passed ball from Cal Raleigh, moving the runner to third with one out. He got a big strikeout of Adolis Garcia and then got a weak lineout from Nathaniel Lowe to end the inning and strand the runner at third.
But he couldn’t keep the Rangers scoreless in the fifth. He allowed a leadoff single to Ibanez and then watched in disbelief as Heim golfed a low fastball on a 3-2 count over the wall in deep left-center for his sixth homer of the season, tying the game at 2-2.
The Mariners appeared on the verge of answering in the top of the sixth and retaking the lead.
Haniger led off with a single and France ripped a fly ball to the right-field corner. But Garcia, easily the most talented player on this depleted roster, made a stunning leaping grab, robbing France of what was likely an RBI double. It hurt even worse when Seager followed with a single that could’ve led to another run. Instead, Texas escaped the inning when Abraham Toro lined out and Seager was doubled off at first.
Garcia made his presence known in the bottom of the inning. He doubled with one out off Anderson and hustled home on Lowe’s single to left field for a 3-2 lead. It could’ve been a larger lead if not for the Mariners defense. Right-hander Joe Smith replaced Anderson after the Lowe single. He immediately allowed a rocket off the bat from Ibanez to left field.
But Dylan Moore, who has returned to his utility role with the addition of Toro, made a difficult leaping grab, crashing into the wall. Anticipating it wouldn’t be caught, Lowe had already rounded second. Moore recognized the situation and fired a quick throw to shortstop Crawford, who turned and fired to first base, delivering a perfect throw to double off Lowe for an unconventional inning-ending double play.