ARLINGTON, Texas — For two days, J.P. Crawford sat and stewed, staring at his swollen index finger and cursing the baseball gods for letting such annoyance keep him from playing.
Like a kid not chosen for a team in a sandlot game, there are few things in life that anger him more than watching his teammates play baseball without him.
There wasn’t going to be third day of watching from the dugout. His finger was going to feel good enough to play even if didn’t.
On Saturday, the team’s emotional leader on and off the field, returned to the lineup and helped the Mariners continue a run of victories that is nearing historic levels for the franchise.
“I was playing no matter what,” he said.
Facing lefty Brett Martin, Crawford pulled a ground-ball single just past Rangers first baseman Nathaniel Lowe in the top of the 10th inning to score pinch runner Sam Haggerty from third base for the go-ahead run.
As Andres Munoz, Erik Swanson, Paul Sewald and Diego Castillo had already pitched, Mariners manager Scott Servais turned to right-hander Matt Festa to finish the game.
As has been the case in winning streak that has reached 13 games, Festa excelled in the moment of need. With the automatic runner on second in the bottom of the 10th, Festa struck out Jonah Heim, Kole Calhoun and Elier Hernandez to secure the Mariners’ 3-2 victory and notch his first career save.
“Everyone is doing their job,” Crawford said. “There’s nothing else that matters to us, nothing else. It’s just winning. That’s everyone’s mindset right now. No one cares if they go 0 for 4 or 0 for 5, if we win, everyone’s happy.”
Servais couldn’t help but chuckle before he discussed the latest victory.
“Our team just has a way of figuring out what to do at the right time,” Servais said. “And it’s weird because it’s something we were not very good at through the month of May. It has flipped in our favor.”
Going into the top of the 10th, the Mariners were 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position, stranding 11 runners.
With Carlos Santana scheduled to be the automatic runner at second after making the last out, Servais put in Haggerty as a pinch runner.
Before he went to second base, Haggerty approached Servais in the dugout. Having watched Martin work with Dylan Moore on second base, Haggerty felt confident he could steal third base after picking up something in Martin’s delivery.
“He’s paying attention from the inning before and even though Martin is very quick to the plate, he’s picked up something that may allow him to get a good jump with the timing,” Servais said. “Even though he’s not in the game at the time, he’s paying attention the inning before knowing that he might end up in the game. Sure enough, there he is.”
Servais trusted Haggerty’s confidence.
“I said, ‘Hags, if you feel it, take it. Don’t play scared. You’ve got to play to win,'” Servais recalled. “That’s what we’re doing. He did a great job. No fear. That’s really what it takes. In this league, if you play scared, it ain’t going to end well.”
With a near running start as an inattentive Martin delivered his fourth pitch of the inning, Haggerty swiped third with ease. Heim didn’t even have a throw. While those 90 feet may not seem like a lot, it forced the Rangers to move their infield in to make a play at the plate, adding another layer of pressure to a team that is 5-20 in one-run games.
“It changed the whole infield, opened up more holes and we have another opportunity and not have to waste an out to get him over,” Crawford said. “It was a huge play.”
It was a reason Crawford’s ground ball was able to get past Lowe.
The Mariners wouldn’t have a chance in the 10th if the winning streak would’ve ended in the bottom of the ninth. With the scored tied at 2, Castillo walked Adolis Garcia to start the inning. But the Mariners got a break when Garcia attempted to steal second and Nathaniel Lowe hit a broken bat liner that Moore, who had replaced Ty France at first base, grabbed out of the air with a slight jump.
Moore stepped on first base for the double play. If that ball is just out of his reach, Garcia likely scores on the play to win the game. Instead, Castillo struck out Taveras to end the inning.
The Mariners got an abbreviated start from Logan Gilbert, which was by design. Sensing a little fatigue from the big right-hander in recent outings and taking note of a heavy workload of 106 innings coming into the outing, the Mariners decided to dial back his final start before the All-Star break.
“We’ll probably keep a closer eye on him today,” Servais said pregame. “He has carried a ton of innings already. He’s been really consistent and really good. But you know this getting close to this close to the break … don’t be surprised if he’s out a little bit earlier than normal today. I’m not going to run him to 110 pitches. I will tell you that right now.”
Servais let Gilbert get to 85 pitches in five innings before removing him. He allowed one run on four hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
His one run allowed came in the second inning. He allowed a leadoff double to Lowe, who came around to score on Heim’s single to center.
The Mariners answered with two runs off Rangers starter Spencer Howard in the top of the third inning. France doubled with one out — his second of three hits. With two outs, Santana, who returned to the Mariners after traveling to see what was left of his home in Florida following a fire, smashed a fastball deep into the seats in right-center for his eighth homer of the season.
The 2-1 lead held up until the seventh inning.
Right-hander Swanson gave up a leadoff double to Leody Taveras, who came around to score on Hernandez’s single to center and tied the game at 2.