A successful weekend at Safeco Field helped the Texas Rangers remain atop of the American League West and kept their streak of consecutive series wins alive.
Their offense flexed its muscles. The two most senior members of the starting rotation were terrific, and the importance of playing quality defense was magnified.
The Rangers had been doing a lot right and continued that trend.
But the series in which they took two of three games from the second-place Seattle Mariners might also be remembered as the series when Mitch Moreland turned around his season.
The first baseman hit a two-run homer Sunday and made a key defensive play late, and Cole Hamels allowed one run in seven innings as the Rangers beat the Mariners 6-4.
“That’s kind of my job to make the plays behind the pitchers and drive the ball,” Moreland said. “I’m happy I was able to do that. It was a good one for us.”
The game ended on another standout play from Nomar Mazara, who threw from the right-field corner to get Robinson Cano trying to stretch his RBI single into a double.
Had Cano been safe, Nelson Cruz would have batted as the potential tying run, a scenario closer Sam Dyson and manager Jeff Banister were glad they didn’t have to face.
“I think we can give Mazara a save also,” Banister said. “What an incredible way to end it.”
Hamels (6-1) became the 77th pitcher in MLB history to record 2,000 strikeouts when he got former Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin swinging in the third. Hamels recorded five strikeouts against two walks and a hit batsman.
He’s one of six active pitchers with 2,000 strikeouts, including Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander.
“You’re aware of it,” Hamels said. “I’ve had some pretty good company to pitch against since I’ve come up. It’s cool to be able to pitch with those types of guys in this league and that generation.”
He faced one batter of the minimum over the first three innings, and the game was scoreless until the fourth. Ryan Rua, though, reached on a one-out single off Wade Miley, went to second on a balk and moved to third on a groundout by Prince Fielder.
Elvis Andrus followed with a double past third base for the game’s first run, and Moreland followed with his ninth homer of the season on a 1-2 pitch he was able to drive out to left-center field.
The Mariners got one back in the fifth as Martin went deep off Hamels, who has surrendered a home run in seven consecutive starts. But the Rangers struck for three in the sixth, the first on an Andrus RBI single and two more on a two-out single by Ian Desmond.
Hamels got the Rangers through the seventh with a 6-1 lead before the Mariners came alive against Tony Barnette and Jake Diekman in the eighth.
Barnette allowed three consecutive one-out singles after Moreland opened the inning with a diving stop to rob Ketel Marte of a leadoff double.
“When I saw it down the line, I just tried to get dirty and make a play on it,” Moreland said. “I was able to get the glove there. It was good one.”
Diekman entered with one out and the bases loaded and struck out Dae-Ho Lee, but he hit Kyle Seager on an 0-2 pitch and walked Chris Iannetta on four pitches to make it 6-3.
The Mariners weren’t done as Marte collected a one-out double in the ninth against Dyson. Cano sent a ball into the right-field corner with two outs, bringing in Marte, but was out to end the game on Mazara’s laser throw.
“What Mazara did to end the game was pretty unbelievable,” Moreland said. “But our whole series was like that.”
The Rangers have the league’s best record at 39-24 and lead the AL West by five games after their seventh consecutive series win.
And Moreland, who hit two homers Friday and had hits in all three games, was a huge part of it.
“It was a plus series, one of the better series he’s had all year,” Banister said. “He’s not trying to do anything more than he was doing previously. I just think he’s relaxed. He’s not missing the ball he’s supposed to hit. There’s confidence at the plate, a lot of feel-good, and he’s staying engaged defensively.”
Rangers at Athletics
9:05 p.m. Monday
Radio: KRLD/105.3 FM, ESPN/1540 AM (Spanish)
Rangers LHP Cesar Ramos (1-2, 3.58 ERA) vs. Athletics LHP Sean Manaea (2-4, 6.20)
Rangers at Athletics
9:05 p.m. Monday, FSSW