ARLINGTON, Texas – With thunder echoing under the retractable roof in the year-old home of the Texas Rangers, Jonah Heim made a pretty good case for lightning striking twice.
The Texas rookie hit his second walk-off homer in as many games right after a tying, two-run shot from Andy Ibánez in the ninth inning, and the Rangers rallied again to beat the Seattle Mariners 4-3 on Sunday.
“If I keep doing this, it’s going to be a pretty good year,” Heim said after becoming the first Texas player and first major league rookie with walk-off homers in consecutive games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Heim and Ibánez both connected against reliever Erik Swanson, who hadn’t allowed a run since now-former Texas slugger Joey Gallo went deep against him in the same ballpark on May 8.
Swanson (0-1), who had gone 122/3 innings without allowing a run while spending more than a month on the injured list with a right groin strain, didn’t even get an out while seeking his second save.
Dennis Santana (1-1) pitched a scoreless ninth for Texas.
The noise from the passing severe storm in the late innings was about the only thing for interest for fans who thought they were watching yet another loss for the last-place Rangers in their $1.2 billion stadium.
Instead, Nathaniel Lowe opened the ninth with a single before Ibánez sent a liner down the line in left field for his second homer.
The switch-hitting Heim pulled a 2-2 fastball into the Texas bullpen in right-center field for his eighth homer. It landed in about the same place as the first walk-off hit of the rookie’s career – a two-run shot in the 10th inning of a 5-4 win the night before. Heim connected on a two-run homer from the right side earlier in Saturday’s game.
The most recent big leaguer with consecutive walk-off homers was Albert Pujols with St. Louis in 2011. Heim gave the Rangers just their third victory in 17 games, and consecutive wins for the first time in a month.
“You can’t find words to describe it,” Texas manager Chris Woodward said. “Just the energy that brings the clubhouse, the fans. Obviously it’s been a rough year. Those two games are pretty special.”
Marco Gonzales allowed one run in six innings and was in line to win his third consecutive start after the Seattle left-hander had gone more than three months without a win.
Gonzales gave up five hits and struck out four – all in the middle of a Texas batting order missing Gallo after the rebuilding Rangers sent the slugger to the New York Yankees in a deadline deal.
Right before the homers from Ibánez and Heim, Dylan Moore and J.P. Crawford struck out with the bases loaded in the ninth for the Mariners.
“We had a lot of opportunities offensively to stretch the lead a little bit. Just weren’t able to get that big hit to spread the gap,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.
Seattle, which finished 5-5 on a 10-game stretch against AL West rivals, still has the best record in the majors in one-run games at 23-10 despite the consecutive final-inning setbacks.
“When you get a roll like that winning those close games, you just expect it to happen every night,” Servais said. “We just didn’t get it done these last couple of days.”
Abraham Toro had three hits to improve to 9 of 18 since joining Seattle in a deal with Houston before the trading deadline. He scored for a 2-0 lead on Moore’s bases-loaded walk against Mike Foltynewicz in the second inning.
Jake Bauers’ RBI single put Seattle in front in the second, and Kyle Seager made it 3-1 with a two-out bunt single to score Crawford in the seventh inning.
Swanson’s rough outing came a night after Diego Castillo, newly acquired from Tampa Bay, allowed Heim’s 10th-inning homer to end a streak of 11 outings without allowing a run.
Mariners: RHP Chris Flexen (9-5, 3.81 ERA) is scheduled for Monday’s opener of a three-game series at Tampa Bay. Flexen’s road ERA (5.92) is more than three runs higher than his home mark, although he is 3-1 away from Seattle.
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