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Mariners drop second in row to Rangers, fall further back in playoff chase

By Adam Jude Seattle Times

ARLINGTON, Texas – Not a lot to like, from the Mariners’ perspective, about what happened again at Globe Life Field.

The Mariners were dealt a 2-0 loss to the Rangers before a crowd of 36,900 here Saturday night.

They have lost the first two games of this crucial series. They are 0-5 in this building this season. And they trail Texas by two games for control of the AL West.

“Not ideal,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.

There was some chatter in the visitors’ clubhouse afterward about how unlucky the Mariners were in this game. They’re not wrong.

But the Mariners (84-70) were handed a bit of fortuitous news shortly after their game ended.

The Kansas City Royals – the 102-loss Kansas City Royals – beat the Astros in Houston for the second night in a row.

What does that mean?

It means nothing has changed for the Mariners. Not much, anyway.

Yes, their chances of winning the AL West have dwindled after back-to-back losses to the Rangers (86-68).

But they are still within reach of a wild-card position, just a half-game back of the Astros (85-70) with eight games remaining in the regular season.

Toronto (86-69) also lost in Tampa Bay on Saturday, and those final two wild-card berths remain up for grabs.

The Mariners, in their final road game of the regular season, will hand the ball to rookie right-hander Bryan Woo on Sunday to try to salvage something from the series against the Rangers, who will turn to veteran right-hander Nathan Eovaldi.

The Mariners return home Monday to close out the regular season with three games against the Astros and four against the Rangers.

“We’ve got eight games against two really good teams,” first baseman Ty France said. “Really important games. We just have to keep going. Fortunately, … (the Astros) lost, so it still gives us a shot. As long as we can get back playing our game, get back home and take care of business, we’ll be in a good spot.”

Their margin for error is getting smaller by the day. They can’t afford to let opportunities slip away like the did the past two nights.

For the second night in a row, the Mariners did make a serious threat in the ninth inning.

For the second night in a row, they couldn’t capitalize.

After France singled off reliever Jose Leclerc, the Rangers turned to their embattled closer, Aroldis Chapman, with one out.

He promptly walked pinch hitter Jarred Kelenic, putting the tying run at first.

But Chapman closed it out by getting Sam Haggerty to pop out to center field and pinch hitter Luis Torrens to ground out to end it.

Torrens’ at-bat typified the night for the Mariners’ offense: He hit the ball hard, with a 104-mph exit velocity and an expected batting average of .600, according to Statcast.

But it was hit right to shortstop Corey Seager, who fielded the short hop cleanly and made the easy throw to first for the final out.

“Baseball,” Servais said. “Sometimes it’s not always fair.”

Texas left-hander Mike Montgomery threw seven shutout innings , scattering five hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

The Mariners never advanced a runner past second base and were shut out for the eighth time this season.

They hit the ball hard, at times, off Montgomery, with little to show for it.

Dylan Moore just missed a home run in the fourth inning, hitting a 416-foot double off the very top of the wall in straightaway center field – just an inch or two from a homer. It would have been a homer in 21 MLB parks, according to Statcast.

Moore wound up stranded at second.

In the fifth, with a runner on, Cal Raleigh hit a 408-foot fly out to the fence in center field to end the inning. That would have been a homer in 16 MLB stadiums.

“You need a few breaks,” Servais said. “Anybody who watches this game for 162 days understands you need a few, and we didn’t get any tonight.”

The Rangers certainly did against Logan Gilbert.

They scored the game’s first run in the second inning when Mitch Garver singled on a 1-2 pitch that just sneaked past the bag at first base – a hit that registered a 65.8-mph exit velocity and had a .060 expected batting average.

France had been shaded well off the bag, far into the hole toward second base with the right-handed-hitting Garver at the plate. France made a diving effort but the grounder was just out of his reach.

That scored Adolis Garcia to give the Rangers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

The Rangers added their second run on another soft single in the fourth inning when Jonah Heim hit a bloop single the other way to left field – with a 63.2-mph exit velocity – to again score Garcia.

That’s all the Rangers would need.

“Just a really close game and one we needed to win,” said Gilbert, who walked a season-high four batters in 5.2 innings, with five hits and two strikeouts. “It makes it a ton of fun but it also makes it really frustrating at the end.

“But I think we’re playing really good ball and I think we’re going be set tomorrow hopefully to take one and go back home and we’ll be all right.”