Mariners rout Rangers as postseason push kicks into overdrive

September 30th, 2023

SEATTLE -- They knew that if they could get into the Rangers’ leaky bullpen, there’d be plenty of chances to strike. They knew that doing so would require overcoming his two disastrous outings against Texas and keeping the game within reach. And the Mariners also knew that by creating traffic for these days, good things should happen.

Seattle knew pregame that its path to a vital victory on Friday night had plenty of hurdles, but the club cleared all of them -- and then some -- while running away to one of its most dominant wins of the season, an 8-0 decision over the Rangers at T-Mobile Park.

  • Games remaining (2): vs. TEX (2)
  • Standings update: The Mariners (87-73) pulled to within two games of the Rangers (89-71). They also remained one game behind second-place Houston (88-72), which defeated Arizona on Friday and holds the third and final AL Wild Card spot. The Blue Jays (89-71), who won, are one game up on the Astros for the second AL Wild Card spot. The Mariners are the first team on the outside looking in.
  • Tiebreakers: Win vs. Houston (9-4); lose vs. Texas (3-8); likely win vs. Toronto (3-3, tiebreaker based on intradivision record).
  • Path to postseason: To win the AL West title, the Mariners would need to win their final two games and have the Astros win only one of their final two games at Arizona, which would create a three-way tie between Seattle, Houston and Texas and give the Mariners the tiebreaker; to secure the second AL Wild Card spot, they’ll need to win out and have Toronto lose its final two games against the Rays and the Astros lose their final two games; to secure the third AL Wild Card spot, they need to win at least one of their next two games and have Houston lose both of its final two games.

One night after a game-winning knock with the bases loaded, Crawford perfectly punctuated things with a 367-foot grand slam in the fourth that opened the floodgates and sent the ticketed 45,274 roaring and rally towels waving in what felt like a postseason atmosphere.

“It's just not giving an at-bat away,” Crawford said. “Any time there's a chance to do damage or just a chance to kill that pulse a little bit for the other team, you've got to take advantage of that.”

Crawford’s second grand slam of the season was Seattle’s third homer of the night, following solo shots from Ty France and Josh Roas in the third, an essential inning against Rangers starter Nathan Eovaldi, who retired each of his first six batters on just 26 pitches. Eugenio Suárez kept that rally alive by slicing a 108.1 mph RBI double past center fielder Leody Taveras, who overran the ball. Rojas also ripped an up-the-middle single with the bases loaded in the fourth, just before Crawford went deep.

“The place exploded,” manager Scott Servais said. “It's just like, even early in the game when Bryan Woo is out there and he's kind of on the edge and everybody gets up out of their seats -- like, those are big moments early in games like that, and we need all of our fans to continue to bring it here.”

The Mariners stranded just two of their 10 baserunners, defying a recurring issue of pressing in big moments. And the offensive onslaught gave Servais plenty of breathing room to use lower-leverage relievers and line up his pitching staff for the regular season’s final two games. It also gave Texas a taste of its own medicine after the Rangers cleared the fence eight times when these teams met last weekend.

Woo was on the mound for four of those homers at Globe Life Park on Sunday, and his effort on Friday was an art in limiting damage.

The rookie attacked around the edges throughout his 82-pitch outing, which led to five full counts, three walks and two singles. But with five strikeouts and five sky-high flyouts, Woo was able to dodge the big-time damage -- no moment bigger than when he escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third. Woo held a Texas team with an .806 OPS with runners in scoring position (seventh best in MLB) 0-for-4 in those situations while stranding six baserunners.

“I didn't want to get in or let up any at-bats,” Woo said. “I probably could have been a little bit more aggressive early on in counts. I didn't need to kind of nibble the whole at-bat, but at the end of the day, zeros are zeros and we got a win.”

Woo was always going to be on a shorter leash, and the fact that the Mariners used him as a starter -- instead of behind an opener, which was considered -- was a roll of the dice sheerly in the context of the opponent. The rookie’s next start is to be determined, if at all, given that he’ll likely move to a relief role should Seattle reach the postseason. And with this being his last outing, even though the box score showed just 3 2/3 innings, it was huge.

“There were definitely some adjustments,” Woo said, “Rewatching [Sunday’s] game and just kind of going back ... knowing my spots, knowing who I wanted to face in certain situations and going at them from there.”

The Mariners head into their final two games behind their two best pitchers, Luis Castillo and George Kirby, who will fight to extend their season beyond Sunday. They’ll also admittedly be scoreboard watching, in need of help from those playing the teams in front of them.