Rangers tighten AL West race with sweep of Jays

Texas cruises to sixth straight win as bats tally 35 runs across pivotal four-game series

September 15th, 2023

TORONTO -- There was no hiding the importance of this series.

While the Rangers preached compartmentalization -- one game, one inning, one pitch at a time -- the consequences of a four-game September set against the Blue Jays were undeniable.

Texas could’ve survived a series split. Three wins would’ve been just dandy. Instead, the Rangers got the sweep and snatched back command of an American League postseason position with Thursday night’s 9-2 win at Rogers Centre.

  • Games remaining (16): at CLE (3); vs. BOS (3); vs. SEA (3); at LAA (3); at SEA (4)
  • Standings update: The Rangers (82-64) are 2 1/2 games up on the Blue Jays (80-67) and one game up on the idle Mariners (81-65) for the second spot in the AL Wild Card race. Texas is just a half-game behind idle Houston (83-64) for the AL West lead.
  • Tiebreakers: Lose vs. Houston; win vs. Toronto; lead vs. Seattle.

“It’s good to come in here and get four games,” said manager Bruce Bochy, whose team earned the club's first sweep of the Blue Jays since 2012 (May 25-27) and the first in a four-game set against Toronto since 1993 (July 8-11).

“I mean, we’ve been on the other side, so it’s good to come in here and play really good, crisp baseball.”

Just one night after Texas dropped 10 runs on Toronto to secure the series win, Corey Seager kept momentum going in the top of the first inning on Thursday. The star shortstop and AL MVP candidate bounced immediately into his home run trot as he launched a missile to right field in the opening frame and followed it up with a two-run double in the second.

Two innings later, Seager was smashing line drives once again. The 29-year-old lashed at a fastball at the far corner of the zone, stinging the pitch to the left-field warning track. As the ball skittered out of Whit Merrifield’s glove at the base of the wall, Seager rolled into second base with his second extra-base hit in as many innings.

Seager finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs and fell a triple shy of the cycle.

“He has set the tone in so many games,” Bochy said. “He’s just an elite hitter, it’s really amazing.”

It was Seager and the rest of Texas’ big bats that sparked dominance in Toronto. The Rangers scored a total of 35 runs in the four-game set. During their current six-game win streak, they averaged 9.4 runs per game.

Benefitting from the offensive outburst was Nathan Eovaldi, who took the ball for his third outing off the injured list. The righty worked up to his predetermined 75-pitch maximum, logging three strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings. Bochy then moved the ball through his bullpen, getting clean outings from four relievers.

The only real threat came in the seventh, when Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who hit a two-run homer off Eovaldi in the bottom of the first, stepped into the box as the potential go-ahead run. After working the count full, José Leclerc challenged the Blue Jays’ slugger and won the battle with a fastball in the heart of the zone for an inning-ending strikeout.

After Leclerc worked out of the jam, the Texas bats added five insurance runs in the top of the eighth to seal the sweep.

“Tonight, I thought, was some of [Leclerc’s] best stuff we’ve seen all year,” Bochy said. “He looked determined to get through that.”

The Rangers got back to their winning ways at the perfect time. Texas had gone 1-7 prior to its six-game win streak and sat a half-game out of a postseason spot. Now, the Rangers head to Cleveland with a 2 1/2-game cushion for the second Wild Card spot.

“It’s huge … momentum shift is huge,” reliever Cody Bradford said. “Sweeping a team that was, I think, leading us just a little bit in the Wild Card race. I think for the whole team, it’s a huge momentum shift.”