Good riddance, Seattle Mariners.
The Texas Rangers saw the Mariners for the last time on Sunday afternoon and the 9-2 loss was a harsh reminder of two things:
▪ 1. The Rangers’ hold on the American League West lead remains tenuous with the final 13-game stretch beginning Tuesday in Oakland. The Houston Astros won Sunday to pull back to within 1 1/2 games of the Rangers.
Furthermore, the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels, who took three of four in Minnesota over the weekend, are both just 2 1/2 games back for the second wild-card spot.
In the AL West, the Angels trail the Rangers by four games and the Astros by 2 1/2 games. The Angels not only could play a pivotal role in the final standings, but have the postseason within reach. They begin a three-game series Monday in Houston and finish the season with four against the Rangers in Arlington.
▪ 2. The Mariners won the season series with the Rangers 12-7, including a dominating performance Sunday at Globe Life Park. They won four of the six series, including over the weekend. They split a four-game series two weeks ago in Seattle. Texas won its lone series against the Mariners last month in Arlington.
7-3 Rangers’ record on the homestand, before hitting the road to Oakland (3) and Houston (3).
Despite Sunday’s loss, the Rangers went 7-3 on the homestand, including a four-game sweep of the Astros, to move into first place in the division.
They lost to Mariners ace Felix Hernandez on Sunday for the fifth time this season. He’s the ninth pitcher to record at least five wins against the Rangers in a season and first since Barlolo Colon had six in 2004.
“He can throw any pitch in any count,” said shortstop Elvis Andrus, who had one of four Rangers hits in the game, all against Hernandez, who left after 5 2/3 innings with elbow discomfort leading 8-2.
“He’s got a lot of movement,” Andrus said. “It’s pretty hard to have a plan. He’s always making an adjustment from at-bat to at-bat.”
The Mariners’ bullpen held Texas without a hit or walk the final 3 1/3 .
“I felt like we made him work,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “You saw some frustration in him along the way, but once he got the lead he did what he always does. That’s a quality, premium pitcher.”
I’ve got to pitch better than that. It was terrible.
Rangers starter and loser Derek Holland
Rangers starter Derek Holland struggled in his third consecutive start. The Mariners scored twice in the fourth and six in the fifth, including seven charged to Holland, who left after 4 1/3 innings.
It’s the shortest of his eight outings since returning from a shoulder injury on Aug. 19. Since he pitched a complete-game three-hitter on Aug. 30, Holland’s innings have decreased with each start — eight on Sept. 5, seven on Sept. 10 and 5 2/3 on Sept. 15.
“I’ve got to pitch better than that. It was terrible,” said Holland, who dismissed the notion that his stamina may be lacking in the wake of missed innings the past two seasons. “It’s just very frustrating. We’re in a playoff race here, and I’m supposed to be a guy that you can count on, and I’m not showing it right now.”
Banister noticed a slight dip in Holland’s velocity in the middle innings but said he wasn’t overly concerned with his No. 2 pitcher.
“Not necessarily concerned, but definitely want to have the antenna up,” he said. “This is one of our best, and we trust that he’s going to be that way, to go out and give us quality starts. I feel confident that Derek will come out for his next start ready to go.”
His next start is a nationally televised game Saturday in Houston. Holland said his arm and body feel fine.
“I’m not tired, I don’t want to hear that,” he said. “It shouldn’t even be about [my velocity],” he said. “I didn’t really drop off that much ... I pitched like crap, that’s the best way I can put it.”
The Rangers’ day off Monday follows a stretch of 17 consecutive days of games, tied for the longest of the season. It comes at the perfect time.
17 Consecutive days playing a game for the Rangers, who are idle Monday.
“I’m proud of our guys and everything they did on this homestand,” Banister said. “We knew today was going to be a tough day.”
“We’re right where we want to be, feeding off of each other. We’re just going to continue to try to do that, and make the road trip go like the homestand,” said Mitch Moreland, whose solo homer in the second gave Texas a 1-0 lead.
“[The off day] just gets your feet back under you. I don’t think anybody will have any trouble with that. I’m ready to go Tuesday. I think everybody in here is too, and we’re looking forward to this last little run.”
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760