They had impressive pitching performances and solid defense, and the offense finally broke out over the weekend and showed what it’s capable of doing.
It all came together for the Texas Rangers, who completed a sweep of the Seattle Mariners with an 11-3 victory on Sunday afternoon and moved into first place in the American League West.
The Rangers had four home runs on the day, including Leonys Martin’s first career blast and a grand slam by Nelson Cruz. On the pitching front, Justin Grimm danced out of trouble seemingly every inning for his first win of the season, and Michael Kirkman got his first career save.
For the series, the Rangers outscored the Mariners 23-3 for their first sweep since last June against San Diego. The 11 runs were a season-high for Texas and most since it scored 12 against Baltimore on Aug. 22 last year.
Cruz summed it up nicely before the team departed for Anaheim.
“It was a good series for the whole team,” he said. “The pitchers were amazing and the offense did the job. When we needed a clutch hit, we got it done.”
Cruz delivered the most clutch hit.
With the Rangers leading 4-1 with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth, Cruz connected on a high fastball from Mariners starter Aaron Harang and sent it over the center-field wall for his fifth career grand slam.
That cushioned the Rangers’ lead to 8-1, which was more than enough for Grimm and Kirkman.
Grimm worked out of jams all day.
Seattle had its leadoff man reach in four of the first five innings but managed only two runs off Grimm. He held the Mariners to 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position, retired eight of nine batters at one point and finished with a career-high nine strikeouts.
The most important innings might have been the first two for Grimm. Mariners outfielder Endy Chavez started the game by reaching on an error and scored when Kyle Seager doubled in the next at-bat. But Grimm responded by retiring the next three batters.
In the second, Kelly Shoppach led off with a double and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt. Grimm then issued a walk to Jason Bay but got out of the inning unscathed with a strikeout and groundout.
“My whole mindset was to keep it close,” Grimm said. “I wasn’t thinking, ‘Don’t let runs score.’ It was just executing pitches.”
Grimm earned his second career victory but more importantly saved the bullpen a day after it worked 7 1/3 innings.
Kirkman closed out the game, allowing one run over the final three innings for the save. He wasn’t aware he earned the rare three-inning save until one of his teammates mentioned it afterward.
“It’s cool,” Kirkman said. “I have two wins, and it’s nice to get a save in there out of the bullpen.”
Martin, on the other hand, was well aware of his first homer. He might have been the happiest guy in the clubhouse, saying it was a proud moment for him.
Martin roped a solo shot into the Rangers’ bullpen to tie the game at 1-1 in the third inning.
“Now he can feel like he belongs,” manager Ron Washington said with a smile.
Martin started what became a home run parade for the Rangers.
Mitch Moreland had a two-run blast in the fourth inning to put the team ahead 3-1. Then the offense broke it open with five runs in the fifth, highlighted by Cruz’s grand slam. Adrian Beltre added a two-run homer in the sixth.
It’s certainly another sign of progress for the offense, which entered the series with 17 runs over its past seven games.
“I still don’t think we’re close to where we could be, but we took a step forward for sure,” Moreland said. “Nellie’s swing today was the big blow. That’s a bunch of runs for one swing. If we can keep doing that and keep taking care of business, we’ll be all right.”