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Cabrera's 9th-inning hit wins seesaw game

Team takes a step away from road struggles, finishing trip at 3-3
@DKramer_
May 29, 2019

SEATTLE -- The Rangers have flirted with .500 for more than a week, and they edged back into the green on Wednesday with an 8-7, ninth-inning win over the Mariners to end their six-game road trip, perhaps fittingly, with three wins and three losses. Nomar Mazara and Asdrubal Cabrera hit

SEATTLE -- The Rangers have flirted with .500 for more than a week, and they edged back into the green on Wednesday with an 8-7, ninth-inning win over the Mariners to end their six-game road trip, perhaps fittingly, with three wins and three losses.

Nomar Mazara and Asdrubal Cabrera hit back-to-back two-out doubles to left field in the final frame off Mariners reliever Anthony Bass with the game tied to edge ahead, after Jesse Chavez pitched two scoreless innings in relief one day after pitching an inning as an opener.

In a seesaw game, the Rangers clawed their way to a win, which they say is a sign of a positive trend.

Box score

“We believe that we're going [into games] that we feel like we should win,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “Obviously, things didn't go great in the middle of the game. We gave up the lead, got it back, gave up the lead again. But we just keep fighting. That's the great thing, when your ballclub resembles that kind of fight. No quit, day game after a night game. It's easy with two outs and nobody on right there to just kind of pack it in.”

The Rangers now return to Arlington for 11 games, their longest homestand of 2019, coming off their first road series in which they’ve finished with better than a losing record.

The Rangers have surprised many this season by lingering in the American League postseason picture heading into June, but their road struggles have been glaring. Even after Wednesday’s win, they are 10-18 away from Globe Life Park, which is tied for the third-worst winning percentage away from home in the Major Leagues.

“We know if we can give ourselves a chance on the road, we'll be in pretty good shape at the end of the year,” Chavez said.

Texas has now won four of its last five series and is 7-1 in rubber games. The club has won seven of its last 10 against last-place Seattle, including seven of its last eight. Since falling four games under .500 after a four-game sweep to the Astros two and a half weeks ago, they are 10-5.

They head home for seven games against the Royals and Orioles, who are both in last place, before a potential litmus test of sorts against the red-hot A’s, who entered Wednesday having won nine of their last 10.

“We're playing teams that we match up well against, but we have to get it done,” Woodward said. “That's the biggest thing. That's the biggest test for our ballclub: Can we win games we're supposed to win? We're not always going to do that, but can we do that consistently? And I think that's a big test for us. … This is a big homestand for us to kind of set us up for the rest of the year.”

What lends credence to their record, the Rangers say, is the way they’ve clawed out wins of late. With glaring struggles against left-handed starters -- they were 1-8 against them entering the series -- the Rangers ran away to an 11-4 win against lefty Marco Gonzales on Tuesday, and followed with late-game heroics on Wednesday.

In the eighth, pinch-hitting Shin-Soo Choo hit a two-out, two-run single to tie the game after Mazara led off the inning with a single and Rougned Odor walked. In total, Texas scored three unanswered runs in the eighth and ninth to spare Drew Smyly and the pitching staff a would-be stinging loss after the Mariners mounted a comeback in the sixth, when Smyly worked his third time through the lineup and gave up three runs, including a homer to Mitch Haniger that caromed off the left-field foul pole.

Smyly pitched his second straight outing following an opener, this time Jose Leclerc. Smyly gave up seven earned runs on eight hits with three walks and four strikeouts over five innings. Rangers pitchers don’t necessarily have apprehension of using an opener, but they are still adjusting.

And the results weren’t as positive as Tuesday, when Chavez opened for Adrian Sampson and the two combined for what would constitute a quality start -- six innings of three-run ball, with nine punchouts.

“If it works, then great,” Smyly said of the opener strategy. “We're winning. That's all that matters. You've just got to do it. There's nothing else you can do. You've got to go get outs. Nothing changes.”

Under a mostly first-year coaching staff, the Rangers have had growing pains, but those have mostly been outweighed by unexpectedly promising performances.

Joey Gallo has played like an MVP. Logan Forsythe and Hunter Pence -- both signed to Minor League deals in February -- have played their way into everyday roles and are both hitting above .300. They have depth on their bench that allows them to play to Forsythe’s versatility and move Danny Santana to the outfield on days like Wednesday, when both Gallo and Choo were scheduled to have the day off.

They’re encouraged with what they’re doing.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.