Cruz control: Seattle wins 3rd straight over Texas
By Greg Johns and Sam Butler
ARLINGTON -- The Mariners have been waiting for the return of some injured pitchers, but welcomed the arrival of some healthy hitting as well on Thursday as they rolled to a 10-4 win, their third straight blowout of the Rangers.
Nelson Cruz led the way with a four-hit day that included a home run, two doubles, two RBIs and four runs. The Mariners moved back above .500 at 74-73, and stayed 3 1/2 games back of the Twins for the American League's final Wild Card spot.
"The offense is really driving the car right now," Mariners manager Scott Servais said.
Cruz matched a season high with his four hits and increased his AL-leading RBI total to 109.
"For me, I'm motivated by what we're playing for, and everybody is doing their job," said Cruz. "It's exciting to see everybody battling every at-bat and how hard we're running the bases. It's nice to see everybody on the same page."
Seattle outscored Texas 28-8 in the final three games of the four-game series, putting a crimp in the Rangers' own Wild Card hopes as they dropped to 72-74, five games back of the Twins with 16 games to go.
"The challenge for us is it seems like we haven't thrown the ball as well as we were in some situations, and then we can't seem to score enough runs," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Baseball, like I've said before, has a cruel sense of humor sometimes. It can be grinding, and in September, it does get challenging."
The Mariners welcomed the return of Felix Hernandez, who threw 3 2/3 innings of one-run ball in his first start since being sidelined by shoulder issues on July 31. Hernandez allowed three hits with no walks and three strikeouts before being lifted after 54 pitches.
Texas got a three-run homer by Rougned Odor in the seventh off Mariners reliever Andrew Albers and Odor had all four of the Rangers' RBIs, while Adrian Beltre went 1-for-3 in his first start at designated hitter after coming off the DL on Wednesday.
But starting pitching continued to be a problem for the Rangers, as Andrew Cashner gave up five runs on six hits and five walks in 4 1/3 innings. Texas has lost five of its last six games, with its starters going 1-3 with a 7.71 ERA.
"I felt like I was pulling the ball a little," Cashner said. "I didn't locate well. Even though I had a good first inning, I didn't really locate it as well as I wanted to. It's just one of those days when good things are not going to happen when you walk five guys."
Kyle Seager homered for the sixth time in the past 10 games with a two-run shot in the second and finished 2-for-4 with three runs and three RBIs, while Yonder Alonso was 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Albers got the win with five innings of relief and is 5-1 since being acquired from the Braves.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Yonder clears 'em: Cashner got in trouble in the fifth when he loaded the bases with two walks sandwiched around a Cruz double. Alonso then made him pay with a three-run double to right field to give Seattle a 5-1 lead. The 30-year-old first baseman has been very productive since being acquired from the A's. After going 1-for-14 in his first four games for Seattle, Alonso has hit .310 (26-for-84) with 14 RBIs in his last 25 games.
"Nobody really knows [how good this offense can be]," Alonso said. "Everybody knows we have really talented players. Every day we have to compete. We have a chip on our shoulders, there's a lot to lose, and we understand what is at stake."
Putting the boom in Boomstick: Cruz spent the night punishing baseballs and became the first player with three hits that had an exit velocity of 110-plus mph in the same game since Statcast™ started tracking that in 2015. The big DH ripped a double in the second that left the bat at 117.7 mph, the hardest-hit ball by Cruz this year and his second-hardest in the past three seasons.
He followed that up with a 112.8-mph double in the fifth, then ripped a 113.7-mph RBI single in the four-run sixth. And Cruz capped his day with a solo shot to the opposite field, a "mere" 97.3 mph off the bat, for his 33rd homer of the season.
Cruz was hit in the hip by a Cashner fastball in his second at-bat and glared at the Rangers starter before taking his base. That apparently awakened the normally mild-mannered ex-Ranger.
"Something earlier in the game happened that got his attention," Servais said. "And he had really good swings after that."
"A future Hall of Famer, still with one leg, going out there because he believes in himself and believes he can help somehow. That's something that I hope everybody, all the young guys, can see. Being good at this game goes along with passion and the love of the game you have, too." -- Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, on Beltre
"It's part of the game, but sometimes you feel like they should know where the ball is going. I get hit a lot , so it doesn't bother me. That was a good win. That's all I really care about." -- Cruz, on whether getting hit by Cashner's pitch in the third provided extra motivation
WHAT'S NEXT Mariners:James Paxton (12-3, 2.78 ERA) will come off the disabled list to start Friday's 5:10 p.m. PT series opener against right-hander Charlie Morton (11-7, 3.86) and the Astros. The big left-hander has been out since Aug. 10 due to a strained pectoral muscle. He's 2-0 with a 0.45 ERA in three starts against the Astros this year.
Rangers: Righty Nick Martinez (3-6, 5.40) opens the Rangers' nine-game road trip in Anaheim on Friday at 9:07 p.m. CT. He's making his first start since Aug. 31 after spending the first part of September working out of the bullpen.