ARLINGTON, Texas — Sweeping a three-game series against any team in Major League Baseball, regardless of their record, shouldn’t be an expected outcome.
Though one could argue that the team the Texas Rangers roll out each game since the July 30 trade deadline barely passes the qualifications of being a legitimate MLB team, earning the whispered nickname “The Round Rock Rangers” — referencing their Triple-A affiliate — from various folks around baseball.
Still, given the array of variables that go into winning one MLB game on a given day, beating a team, even one that is highly inexperienced at almost every position, for three consecutive days is difficult.
But in this situation, the Mariners made it difficult on themselves needing an unnecessary extra two innings Thursday afternoon to pull out a 9-8 victory over the Rangers to notch their first three-game sweep in Texas since April 27-29, 2015.
On Thursday, at least for eight innings, the Mariners weren’t in a close game. They had scored more runs than the previous two games combined and were cruising toward that sweep.
But when the relief duo of Anthony Misiewicz and Diego Castillo decided to set fire to their team’s five-run lead in the ninth inning, the Mariners found themselves headed into extra innings with the scored tied at 7-7.
“I’ve said it a few times this year, it’s really hard to sweep a team, and we proved it,” an emotionally drained manager Scott Servais said with a chuckle postgame. “We proved it’s really hard.”
After working so hard to gain ground in the wild card race, another disappointing walk-off loss at Globe Life Park loomed.
However, an awful baserunning mistake in the 10th inning by the Rangers and Ty France’s two-run homer in the 11th inning gave the Mariners a 9-7 lead.
Right-hander Paul Sewald, who was pitching for a third straight day, allowed a run in the bottom of the 11th but was able to secure his sixth save.
“It wasn’t easy, but at the end of the day, it’s a ‘W,’ and we’ll take it,” Servais said.
Seattle has now won eight of its past 10 games, dating back to the final game of the previous road trip — a 2-0 victory at Yankee Stadium. The Mariners improved to 66-56. The 10 games above .500 is the high-water mark of the season. They remain three games back of the second wild card spot with the A’s (69-53) also winning Thursday. The Red Sox are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Mariners. Seattle is 11-4 in extra innings games and 51-19 in games with four-plus runs of offense.
The Mariners rolled into the ninth inning with a comfortable 7-2 lead, having scored six runs in the first two innings off Rangers starter Spencer Howard. Kyle Seager’s RBI double highlighted the two-run first inning while Mitch Haniger’s three-run homer in the second was part of a four-run frame.
“It was great to see the offense get going, a lot of guys with a lot of good at-bats and balls were hit hard,” Servais said. “A lot of traffic on the bases, we probably should have scored more than the nine we ended up with today.”
Combine that with another solid start from Chris Flexen, who pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on four hits with a walk and five strikeouts for his 12th quality start (six-plus innings pitched and three runs or fewer allowed) this season, and the Mariners seemed poised for a comfortable win.
But Misiewicz didn’t get an out, allowing three consecutive hits, including an RBI double to Jonah Heim that made it 7-3. Castillo entered the game with runners on second and third with no outs.
He struck out D.J. Peters to get a quick out. But after getting up 0-2 on Brock Holt, he couldn’t find the strike zone on the next four pitches and even uncorked a wild pitch that allowed a run to score to make it 7-4. Castillo came back to strike out Andy Ibanez. But he piped a 1-1 slider to Jason Martin that was hammered into the right-field seats to tie the game at 7-7.
“You know, Miz wasn’t as sharp as he normally is, they were on him,” Servais said. “Diego almost got us out of it. But he made one mistake, and we paid the price for it.”
Servais looked ashen in the dugout as Martin circled the bases and the remaining fans in attendance from the crowd of 16,391 celebrated the unexpected outburst of runs.
When right-hander Joe Barlow worked a 1-2-3 top of the 10th, the Rangers simply needed to push a run across against veteran right-hander Joe Smith to get the win.
With designated runner Yonny Hernandez starting the inning at second per MLB extra innings rules, the Mariners intentionally walked Isiah Kiner-Falefa in an effort to get a double play. They got it in the least conventional of ways. Adolis Garcia hit a ground ball to third base. Kyle Seager fired to second for the first out, but Abraham Toro’s throw to first was high, pulling France off the bag.
Hernandez advanced to third on the play but was overaggressive on his turn. Shortstop J.P. Crawford sneaked in behind him, and France made a perfect throw across the diamond to get Hernandez for the second out.
“Toro’s throw was a little high and it took me off the base, and actually Adolis had stepped on my foot,” France said. “So I took a couple steps to shake that off. And when I looked up, Hernandez was halfway up the line, so I just threw the ball and J.P. was right there.”
With Haniger on second base to start the 11th and Barlow back on the mound, France came up with one out and turned on a 1-0 fastball. France’s 13th homer of the season gave Seattle a 9-7 lead.
“It was a big spot,” France said. “I’m not really trying to hit homers, but he left the fastball up and I put a good swing on it. It worked out for us at the end.”