ARLINGTON, Texas — The results didn’t come immediately. At times, the familiar failures with runners in scoring position were anguishing. But with each extended plate appearance, dragging past six pitches, forcing the Rangers to roll out reliever after reliever — none of them exceptional — a Mariners’ lineup restored to full strength eventually provided the production to match the potential.
With Julio Rodriguez returning from the injured list to return to his spot atop a lineup that welcomed Mitch Haniger back a week ago, the Mariners rolled out one of their best lineups since the first month of the season, featuring Rodriguez, Ty France and Haniger at the top of it.
And in a rare break from their one-run grinders, the Mariners rolled to a relatively drama-free 6-2 victory over the Texas Rangers.
The Mariners banged out 11 hits and worked five walks in a win that pushed them into the first-place wild-card spot in the American League, a half-game ahead of the Blue Jays.
“Awesome start to the series, obviously our lineup looks a little bit different these days with all the guys back in it,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “You saw it tonight, just the constant pressure, the good situational at-bats. You’ve got runners out there every inning, and you know we needed it tonight.”
The Mariners have defeated Texas in nine consecutive games to improve to 11-2 in the season series. The victory also gave Servais his 500th career win as a manager — all with the Mariners. His first managerial win came against the Rangers at the old Globe Life Field.
“It’s hard to do, first of all, and not get fired in this game,” Servais said with a laugh. “It happens. But it’s a credit to our players. I said that to them before they dumped the Gatorade or whatever on me tonight. It means a lot, but the game is about the players. It’ll always be about the players and the fact that they grind through it. I really appreciate their efforts.”
With this lineup, there could be a few more wins for Servais and the Mariners.
“Top to bottom, nobody’s throwing at-bats away,” Servais said. “You look up there and you have 10-11 hits and Ty France didn’t get any hits tonight. I think that’s what you’re gonna see from us all the way out. We may not score 6-7 runs every night, but we’re gonna have a chance with this lineup, because it’s very deep.”
Arguably, it’s a better lineup now with Rodriguez having blossomed into an All-Star after struggling in that first month.
He made his presence felt almost immediately, showing no signs of discomfort in the bruised right hand/wrist that forced him to the injured list.
After singling in his second at-bat, Rodriguez gave the Mariners the lead for good in the fourth inning after his teammates loaded the bases against lefty Taylor Hearn.
The Rangers went to right-hander Jose Leclerc to face Rodriguez.
The last time Rodriguez stepped into the batter’s box at Globe Life Field with the bases loaded, Leclerc was also on the mound. It was July 15, two days before the All-Star break, and the Mariners had yet to hit a grand slam this season. Rodriguez changed that quickly, crushing a 3-2 fastball over the wall in dead center.
There would be no repeat of the feat.
Rodriguez slashed a crisp single to right field to score two runs and give the Mariners a 3-1 lead.
“Honestly, I was just competing and going with him honestly,” Rodriguez said. “I knew his pitches. I just tried to stay committed to my approach. Whatever I did in the past, that home run I hit, I don’t know how long ago it was. I try to live one day at a time, so I wasn’t even thinking about that grand slam. I was just thinking about that situation right there and being able to get a base hit and drive in the runs.”
The Mariners got a solid if not lengthy outing from George Kirby. The rookie right-hander pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits with a walk and five strikeouts to improve to 4-3.
“I’m just happy we got the win,” Kirby said. “I didn’t think I had my best stuff tonight. It was just kind of sporadic with the fastball. But I thought I did a good job of competing, going as long as I could.”
His teammates gave him a 1-0 lead in the third inning when J.P. Crawford walked, Rodriguez singled him to third and Crawford scored on France’s ground ball.
The Rangers answered in the bottom of the inning. Ezequiel Duran singled with one out, advanced to third on Brad Miller’s single to right and scored on Marcus Semien’s ground out to third base, tying the game at 1-1.
After Rodriguez gave him the lead 3-1, Kirby carried it into the sixth inning. But a rare walk to Corey Seager with one out and a single from Adolis Garcia put him in trouble. After retiring Nathaniel Lowe, Semien blooped a single into center to score Seager and cut the lead 3-2.
Servais went to Matt Brash to get the final out. He overpowered Leody Taveras in a quick strikeout to end the inning.
Brash, Andres Muñoz and Erick Swanson combined to hold the Rangers scoreless to close out the win.
The offense made it easier with some insurance runs. The Mariners added a run in the eighth on J.P. Crawford’s sac fly to score Adam Frazier and tacked two more in the ninth on a double from Eugenio Suarez.