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Julio Rodriguez’s September struggles continue as Mariners eliminated

Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez reacts after flying out against the Texas Rangers on Sept. 30 at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.  (Getty Images)
By Adam Jude Seattle Times

SEATTLE – More frustration for Julio Rodriguez and the Mariners on Saturday.

The star center fielder flew out to shallow left field in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and one out, and Eugenio Suarez followed with a groundout to squander the Mariners’ best chance to rally against the Rangers in a must-win game at T-Mobile Park.

The rally never came. The Rangers closed out a 6-1 victory and celebrated their postseason berth in the visitors’ clubhouse.

After an incredible stretch in August, Rodriguez cooled considerably in September as the Mariners faded out of playoff position down the stretch.

Over this final 10-game stretch, starting last weekend in Texas, Rodriguez has four hits in 28 at-bats, with 13 strikeouts.

During the closing homestand, he’s 1 for 21.

“I could have been better,” Rodriguez said. “There’s no way around that. I take that on myself. You know, I prepare and everything. It just – it just didn’t happen. It didn’t happen for me. It’s not the way that I wanted it, but it is what it is. You saw it; I saw it. I was swinging over there. And there’s no way around it. It was not the best.”

The Rangers built a 5-0 lead in the top of the fourth after knocking the Mariners’ Luis Castillo out early.

The Mariners finally chased Texas starter Andrew Heaney with one out in the fifth, prompting the Rangers to turn to Josh Sborz out of the bullpen.

On the second pitch he saw, Rodriguez swung at a low slider and popped out.

Rodriguez finished 0 for 4 on Saturday, and the Mariners’ 2-5 hitters – Rodriguez, Suarez, Cal Raleigh and Teoscar Hernandez – were 1 for 16.

The one hit was Suarez’s solo homer in the eighth inning.

Web gem for Moore

Things were bad enough for the Mariners in the third inning.

They would have been much, much worse without Dylan Moore’s heroics in left field.

With the Mariners already trailing 4-0, Moore made an all-out diving catch to rob Texas’ Marcus Semien and save at least two runs.

On a play that had a 10% catch probability, Moore covered 40 feet in 3 seconds, according to MLB Statcast data.

The line drive off Semien’s bat had an expected batting average of .930.

The Rangers chased Mariners ace Castillo in the third inning – scoring all four runs in the third inning with two outs.

Castillo was pulled after pitching just 2⅔ innings – his shortest outing as a Mariner. He had thrown at least five innings in all of his previous 32 starts this season.

With the bases loaded in the third, Mariners manager Scott Servais turned to one of his top bullpen arms, Matt Brash.

Brash hung a slider to Semien on a 1-2 pitch, and Moore took over from there to end the third.

Brash was back on the mound for the fourth, surrendering a bases-loaded walk to give the Rangers a 5-0 lead.

Brash made his 78th appearance in relief, tying the club record for most appearances by a reliever (Ed Vande Berg, 1982).

Montes embraces comparison

Lazaro Montes was ready for the question.

Is there one major-league player, he was asked, you model your game after?

He answered immediately:

“Yordan Alvarez.”

Montes even smiled and winked as he said it.

The 18-year-old Mariners outfield prospect, at T-Mobile Park to take part in the organization’s minor-league awards ceremony, has been linked to Houston’s All-Star slugger for years.

And he welcomes the comparison.

“A lot of times when something’s off with my swing, I watch his videos,” Montes said through Mariners interpreter Freddy Llanos.

Montes and Alvarez are both oversized, left-handed power hitters. They’re both from Cuba and have worked with the same hitting instructor in the Dominican Republic.

And what does he love about Alvarez’s swing?

“Everything,” he answered .

Montes said he was thrilled to be in Seattle, sitting in the home dugout at a big-league ballpark a couple of hours before the start of the Mariners-Rangers game.

The thought did occur that, yeah, the 6-foot-5, 258-pound Montes would have fit in nicely as the designated hitter in the Mariners’ lineup.

At it was, the Mariners had their DH – utility man Sam Haggerty – batting ninth.

Montes and Jake Scheiner were named co-winners of the Ken Griffey Jr. Hitter of the Year Award.