SEATTLE (AP) — The thought of being swept by the scuffling Seattle Mariners while trying to hold off the rest of the AL West was a proposition the Texas Rangers just couldn’t stomach.
And yet it almost happened anyway.
Mike Adams worked out of a bases loaded jam in the eighth inning and Mike Napoli and Geovany Soto homered to lead Texas to a 3-2 victory over the Mariners on Sunday and preserve a four-game lead over second-place Oakland in the division.
With Oakland’s 5-4 win over the New York Yankees earlier Sunday, the Rangers were looking to keep their distance over the Athletics with a pivotal four-game series against them beginning in Texas on Monday.
“We don’t want to get swept,” Texas starter Ryan Dempster said. “It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, where you’re playing, who you’re playing, if you have a chance to avoid a sweep you want to do that.”
Adams allowed singles to Franklin Gutierrez and Kyle Seager to lead off the eighth. He has found himself in these situations more often than he would like this season, but it prepared him for taking on the heart of the Mariners lineup with no margin for error.
“I’ve kind of put myself in situations like that,” Adams said. “The mindset is just `Here we go. We’ve got to tighten this up a little bit and get one out at a time.'”
A chopper to the mound by John Jaso moved the runners to second and third with one out and the Rangers elected to intentionally walk Justin Smoak to load the bases. Adams struck out Eric Thames and induced a lazy fly ball to center from Luis Jimenez to get out of the jam and preserve the one-run lead.
“We had a great opportunity there in the eighth inning,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “You’ve got to push at least one run across there. You’ve got to put that ball in play — do more than we did.”
Texas manager Ron Washington had no hesitation in leaving Adams in after the consecutive hits to lead off the inning. He trusts Adams to be his eighth inning guy and his ability to work out of these situations was critcial on Sunday.
“It was very pivotal. They had an opportunity to get a base hit and win a ball game,” Washington said. “… Mike didn’t get shaken he just kept battling and got us out of that inning.”
Solo homers by Thames and Brendan Ryan off Dempster (12-7) in the seventh inning were the only blemishes to a strong outing. Dempster went 6 2-3 innings allowing two runs and six hits while allowing one walk and striking out eight. Joe Nathan earned his 35th save.
The win gives Texas a little added cushion with seven of the Rangers’ final 10 games coming against Oakland.
“You should be playing the teams in your own division down the stretch and we just got to get home, get some good rest and come out and play a tough ball game because those guys will be ready tomorrow,” Dempster said.
The Rangers were again without Josh Hamilton, who has missed the last five games with a sinus issue that’s affected his vision. The Rangers had eight hits off Mariners starter Jason Vargas (14-11).
In his absence, the Rangers have struggled to produce timely hits to drive in runs as Texas’ usual offensive juggernaut has sputtered from its typical production.
“You go through spells like this,” Washington said. “I’d rather keep leaving guys out on the bag than not getting them out there because with this team, we’ll get them in.”
Texas left runners in scoring position in the second and third innings before finally breaking through in the fourth. A solo home run from Napoli gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead. After a walk to David Murphy, Soto followed with a 2-run blast into the Texas bullpen in left field.
Two-out singles in the fifth inning from Ryan and Michael Saunders gave Seattle its first runner in scoring position of the game. Gutierrez worked a full-count against Dempster but flied out to the warning track in left.
NOTES: Hamilton will rejoin the team when it returns to Texas on Monday. Washington said he still isn’t sure when Hamilton will be able to return to the lineup. … The Mariners are 1 for their last 40 with runners in scoring position. … Texas earned its 90th win of the season for the third consecutive year and sixth time in franchise history. Texas has won the season series over Seattle five straight times and in eight of the last nine seasons. … Seattle has homered in each of its last 13 games, a season high. … Vargas has allowed 35 home runs this season.