SEATTLE -- Adrian Sampson has officially established his candidacy for the Rangers rotation next season. He still has to come to Spring Training and win a job, but he is in the running after his September work.
Sampson turned in another solid performance in his fourth start for the Rangers, even though it came in a losing effort. He allowed three runs (two earned) in 6 2/3 innings in the Rangers' 4-1 loss to the Mariners on Saturday night. The game was 1-1 through six innings before the Mariners scored three in the seventh.
Sampson is still looking for his first Major League victory, but he has a respectable 3.57 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over his four starts this month. The fact that his teammates have scored four runs for him in those four starts has something to do with him being winless. But he has placed himself in the running for the rotation next year.
"That's something I can't control," Sampson said. "As long as I come out and prove I can go deep in the game, be efficient and give the bullpen some rest, put our team in position to win the game, that's what I've tried to do all year. That's all I can control."
The only run he allowed through six innings came after his own throwing error on what should have been an inning-ending double play in the fifth. The Mariners tied the game late in the inning on a sacrifice fly by Mitch Haniger and went ahead in the seventh on a leadoff double by Kyle Seager and a two-out triple by Dee Gordon. Connor Sadzeck then took over for Sampson and gave up an RBI single to Jean Segura.
"I like the way he attacked the strike zone," Rangers interim manager Don Wakamatsu said. "The efficiency of pitches was outstanding. For him to go deep in the game when we really need him, when our bullpen is a little short ... a quality outing in front of his family and his hometown. I think the key for him was being able to elevate the fastball, but also his ability to double up on that changeup when he needed to."
Sampson is a Seattle-area native who was pitching at Safeco Field in front of family and friends for the first time as a professional. He had more than 60 people there to watch him pitch.
"This one was definitely for them, they have been supporting me all the way through this," Sampson said. "For them to come out there and be there was something special. I will definitely remember this one, the environment, great crowd, all the people who came to see me and the way I pitched."
Sampson pitched for the Mariners organization from 2012-16, starting just one game in the Majors before undergoing flexor tendon surgery and being put on waivers after the 2016 season.
The Rangers claimed him off waivers with the idea of rehabilitating and developing him into a Major League candidate for the rotation. Sampson is not overpowering. He'll have to rely on pinpoint location and mixing three pitches effectively, but so far the Rangers' plan is on track.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Rangers lost a run in the eighth on a base-running mistake. They had Delino DeShields on third and Jurickson Profar at second with one out when Elvis Andrus hit a slow grounder to third baseman Seager. DeShields was going to score until Profar, trying to go to third, collided with Seager and was called out for interference. DeShields had to go back to third and the inning ended with a fly out by Adrian Beltre.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Carlos Tocci made his first start in left field and came up with a terrific catch to save a run in the fifth. Tocci, with runners at second and third, went back to the wall and made an off-balanced catch on Haniger's long drive. It went for a sacrifice fly instead of an extra-base hit. Tocci was shaken up after crashing into the wall, but stayed in the game.
"I felt the pain when I hit the wall and after my hip started tightening up on me," Tocci said.
Beltre will be starting at third base in what could be the final game of his career when the Rangers play the Mariners at 2:10 p.m. CT on Sunday at Safeco Field. Beltre has talked about retiring at the end of the season, although he has not yet announced his decision. He is not expected to play the entire game, but it is important to Beltre to finish the season on the field. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo (8-7, 6:40 ERA) will pitch for the Rangers against left-hander Roenis Elias (2-1, 2.93).