Semien, Rangers slug their way to crucial sweep

September 25th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- Even when the Rangers weren’t hitting homers on Sunday, they were still hitting homers.

In Sunday’s series finale against the Mariners, the Rangers hit a season-high six home runs. The fifth was a liner to straightaway center field at 102.2 mph off the bat of that looked like it would die at the warning track. Mariners All-Star center fielder Julio Rodríguez nearly reeled it in to rob Semien of extra bases -- but instead the ball bounced off the heel of his glove and over the center-field wall for Semien’s second homer of the day.

“When I hit it, I didn't expect it to be a homer,” Semien said. “I saw him running hard back, so I was ready to get on third for [a] triple, hopefully. Then I saw the ball go off his glove, so when you get as many at-bats as I do, you get lucky every once in a while. That was definitely the luckiest one.

“Julio was saying I owe him one,” Semien added with a chuckle.

The Rangers also got home runs from Adolis García, Corey Seager and Leody Taveras as they battled through a back-and-forth 9-8 win to sweep the Mariners at Globe Life Field.

  • Games remaining (7): at LAA (3); at SEA (4)
  • Standings update: The Rangers (87-68) lead the AL West by 2 1/2 games over the Astros (85-71) and three games over the Mariners (84-71).
  • Tiebreakers: Lose vs. Houston; win vs. Toronto; win vs. Seattle (with a win on Saturday, Texas secured the series win over the Mariners)
  • Magic number: 5 (to win division)

The Rangers’ half-dozen home runs were the difference, as Texas reached the mark for just the 17th time in club history.

Semien connected for his 15th career multi-homer game and his third this season, all of which have come in September. His first-inning solo shot was his AL-leading 10th leadoff home run of 2023, making him just the ninth player in MLB history to hit 10+ leadoff homers in a single season (Alfonso Soriano did it twice). Two other players have done it this year: Mookie Betts (12) and Kyle Schwarber (10).

“When you have your whole team out there -- which we haven't had a lot all year, with the injuries -- you see what this team's capable of,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “We were facing good pitching and putting runs on the board. I don't know who to point out, really. [Evan] Carter had a big home run -- really, everybody. Corey; Marcus got us going with the leadoff home run; Adolis gave good at-bats.

“That's what it's going to take. We have a lot of baseball left, but I just love the way they came out and how hard they fought today.”

It was a back-and-forth affair in Arlington, as the Rangers had leads of 7-2 and 9-5. Each time Texas added runs, the Mariners struck back, until the Texas bullpen finally shut the door over the final two innings.

The trio of Jonathan Hernandez, Brock Burke and Jose Leclerc combined for 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, allowing just three hits and no walks to prevent the Mariners from completing their comeback. Bochy pointed to Leclerc specifically, who was pitching on back-to-back days and secured the save.

“He's been throwing the ball well -- he's been pitching with confidence,” Bochy said. “We got through it. We used a lot of pitchers, but we found a way to get through it. It was a great series, an entertaining series with a lot of drama. Every game they had a winning run or tying run up there, the boys [in the bullpen] did a great job.”

Having now re-taken the lead in the AL West by 2 1/2 games, the Rangers head out to the West Coast for a seven-game, seven-day road trip to close out the regular season, looking to secure a postseason berth for the first time since 2016.

This is what you play the game for, Bochy said. Meaningful baseball in September doesn’t get old, but the Rangers are more than aware that the job isn’t done yet.

“I don't think [our mindset] has changed at all,” Semien said. “I think if we keep this mindset now, and if we keep the same mindset when we get in, I think we'll be in a better position to win it all. The goal is not to get to the playoffs, it’s to win it all. So we’ll take each game one at a time and step by step.”