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Seattle Mariners

Mariners race to big lead, hold on for 7-5 victory over Rangers

Julio Rodriguez reacts during a win over Texas on Saturday at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.  (Tribune News Service)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

SEATTLE – For the first eight innings, the Mariners were rolling to perhaps their most complete victory of the season.

They got the usual solid outing from starter George Kirby. Their wildly unpredictable offense showed up in productive mode, grinding through at-bats, working walks and coming up with timely hits, including Julio Rodriguez’s seventh homer of the season, the defense was making plays and the middle relievers didn’t allow a run.

Up six runs on the defending World Series champions and the team they are trying distance themselves from in the American League West standings, a packed T-Mobile Park danced and celebrated what appeared to be a decisive win over the Texas Rangers.

Instead, the Mariners, who can’t help but find drama in any situation and seem allergic to easy wins, made getting the final three outs a gut-wrenching ordeal for the 43,448 fans in attendance.

Stepping to the plate as the winning run with two outs in the ninth and runners on the corners, Corey Seager, who has been held hitless in this series, ripped a hard ground ball to the right side of the infield. Rookie Tyler Locklear made a diving stop on the ball, scrambled to his feet and raced to first for the final out of a 7-5 victory.

“Fun game,” manager Scott Servais tried to deadpan before laughing at his joke and continuing with the humor. “Yeah, the ninth inning was, you know, we didn’t want to enjoy a nice win. We had to make it interesting and make sure all 43,000 people got their money’s worth.”

Servais wasn’t laughing in the top of the ninth. He brought in reliever Eduard Bazardo to mop up the final inning with a 7-1 lead.

Instead, he made a mess of an inning where he simply needed to throw strikes and get outs. He did neither, giving up hits to four of the first five batters he faced to allow a run to score. With the bases loaded, he walked pinch hitter Josh Smith on four pitches that reduced the Mariners to 7-3.

With Marcus Semien coming to the plate as the tying run with the bases loaded, Servais had to call on Ryne Stanek for a second straight day to clean up the mess. But he couldn’t do it without allowing some damage. Semien singled to right field to score a pair of runs to make it 7-5 and bring Seager to the plate.

Locklear, who has always been a hitter first, struggled with making routine plays at first base during spring training. It was something that the Mariners wanted him focus on when he reported to Double-Arkansas to start the season.

“When you throw something at him, he’s gonna work on it,” Servais said. “He’s gonna say OK, ‘I’ll show you I will get better at this.’ Huge play. He is a rookie out there, he’s 23 years old and the game is on the line and the ball is coming at you and it’s ‘I gotta make the play and win the game’ and he did today.”

Servais didn’t want the mini meltdown in the ninth to overshadow how well his team played in all facets.