ARLINGTON, Texas – After every home run hit by the home team here, fireworks blast out from the top of the scoreboard high above the right-field stands at Globe Life Field.
They’re loud and they linger.
Smoke from the fireworks settles underneath the roof trusses and hovers like a circling vulture for the rest of the game. On Sunday afternoon, the smoke grew thicker and more ominous throughout the Rangers’ wild 9-8 victory over the Mariners, building in intensity after each one of the home team’s six home runs.
And it will continue to hover over the Mariners as they happily leave here, their playoff hopes smoldering, their chances at a division title drifting off.
Trailing 7-2 early, the Mariners mounted a furious rally to get within a run, and they put three runners in scoring position to threaten further over the final two innings.
They couldn’t, ultimately, complete the comeback, and couldn’t avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the team they’re trying to chase down in their division.
Now they’ll need another kind of come-from-behind rally over the final week of the regular season to fulfill their hopes of a second straight playoff berth.
“Obviously not the outcome we were looking for down here in Texas,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.
The Mariners (84-71) finished 0-6 at Globe Life Field this season and fell three games back of the Rangers (87-68) in the AL West with seven games to play.
The one bit of good news from this weekend for the Mariners: The Astros were, incredibly, swept at home by the 102-loss Kansas City Royals, leaving the Astros (85-71) just a half-game ahead of the Mariners for the third and final wild-card spot heading into their three-game series in Seattle starting Monday night.
It’ll be a heavyweight showdown in the series opener between Mariners ace Luis Castillo and Houston’s Justin Verlander.
“I cannot wait. I cannot wait to get home,” Julio Rodriguez said. “It’s definitely going to be special being in front of the home crowd, feeling their energy. I know they’re going to be into that game.”
After the three games against the Astros, the Mariners close out the regular season with a four-game series against the Rangers back at T-Mobile Park.
They’ll expect to put up better fight than they did on the road this weekend.
The Mariners led only once in this series – for a mere half inning after Teoscar Hernandez homered in the second and J.P. Crawford’s solo homer gave them a 2-1 lead in the third inning Sunday.
The Rangers roughed up rookie Bryce Miler on Friday night, and they did it again to Bryan Woo on Sunday afternoon, hitting four of their six homers off the Mariners’ 23-year-old rookie right-hander.
Marcus Semien hit a leadoff homer off Woo, who returned to the site of his June 3 MLB debut hoping for a much different outcome 31/2 months later.
It didn’t happen for him.
With two outs in the third, Corey Seager jumped on a first-pitch slider that Woo hung over the middle of the plate and sent it out to right field, a two-run shot that gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead.
Adolis Garcia hit a leadoff homer in the fourth inning, and three batters later Leody Taveras added a two-run blast to chase Woo.
Woo’s final line: 3 1/3 innings, five hits, six runs, two walks, six strikeouts.
Semien hit his second homer of the game later in the fourth off Mariners reliever Gabe Speier. The ball deflected off Rodriguez’s glove just in front of the wall in center field and bounced over, right at the 407-foot mark.
Rodriguez, who has two home-run robberies on his résumé already this season, tried to track the ball for a similar play on Semien’s shot, but Rodriguez said he lost the ball in the sun when it reflected off one of the windows.
That play typified the kind of breaks the Rangers seemed to get often this weekend.
“But you cannot blame it all [on] luck,” Rodriguez said. “We gotta show up. We gotta control what we can control.”
The Mariners, feasting on the Rangers’ beleaguered bullpen, scored three runs in the sixth inning to chase Texas starter Nathan Eovaldi and three more in the seventh to pull within 9-8.
Jarred Kelenic and Eugenio Suarez drove in runs in both innings, and Sam Haggerty had a key pinch-hit triple to drive in Kelenic with two outs in the sixth.
Hernandez, Kelenic and Suarez then had consecutive two-out, two-strike singles off Chris Stratton in the seventh to cut the Mariners’ deficit to one.
“Awesome effort by our guys to battle back in the game,” Servais said. ” … It’s just one of those series, and that’s how it’s going to be for the next week. I don’t think a lot went in our favor here. It should flip we’ll get back home.”
With two outs in the eighth, Crawford singled off Jonathan Hernandez and Rodriguez followed with a scorching double – 109.2 mph off the bat – to left-center. The ball ricocheted off the base off the wall and kicked cleanly to left fielder Evan Carter, whose relay throw back in forced Crawford to hold at third.
The Rangers called on lefty Brock Burke, who struck out Cal Raleigh on three pitches to end the eighth.
In the ninth, Suarez hit a two-out double off Jose Leclerc, but Nathaniel Lowe made a diving stop up the line at first base stop a hard-hit grounder Dominic Canzone’s bat. Lowe’s flip to Leclerc at first ended it.
“We’re still here. We still gotta chance and we’re here for a reason,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not just luck. It’s just because things were falling our way or nothing [like that]. We worked to be here right now. I feel like we’ve got to just keep on going. At the end, at Day 162, that’s when we’ll figure it out and see if we’re going to go through or not. But in the meantime, we’ve gotta keep putting in the effort and keep on going.”