Mariners targeting jump in AL West with potential sweep

MLB

The Seattle Mariners are inching closer to the penthouse in the American League West by taking care of business against the cellar-dwelling Texas Rangers.

The Mariners look to complete a three-game sweep of the Rangers on Thursday afternoon in Arlington, Texas. Seattle last brought out the brooms in a four-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays from June 17-20.

The Mariners have won 12 of their 18 encounters against the Rangers heading into the regular-season series finale on Thursday afternoon.

Seattle recorded a pair of 3-1 victories over Texas in the first two contests of the set to improve to 6-1 in its last seven contests and a season high-tying nine games over .500. That surge, coupled with the respective four-game losing skids by both Houston and the Oakland Athletics, has the Mariners within 5.5 games of the first-place Astros.

Mariners manager Scott Servais was quick to credit his team’s pitching for the club’s ascent in the standings.

“We’ve been able to win these games because of our pitching,” Servais said. “It’s not pretty, but it’s professional and very competitive.”

Seattle right-hander Chris Flexen (10-5, 3.78 ERA) will look to continue his dominance against Texas when he takes the mound on Thursday afternoon.

Flexen, 27, sports a 4-0 record with a 2.88 ERA in four career starts against the Rangers. He has won all three encounters versus Texas this season, including allowing just one run on seven hits in 13 innings over his last two meetings.

Flexen, however, recorded his second straight no-decision on Friday despite permitting two runs on six hits in six innings against the Toronto Blue Jays. Servais utilized the quick hook after just 73 pitches with the hurler dealing with a reported lower-body issue.

Kyle Seager hasn’t been shy about flexing his muscles, as the slugger has belted a team-leading 27 homers this season — including six at the expense of Texas. He launched a two-run shot in the first inning on Wednesday for his 37th career homer against the Rangers.

Texas certainly could use some pop after mustering just one run in each of its last four games versus Seattle. All told, the Rangers have scored one or fewer runs in 31 games in 2021 to plummet a season-worst 36 games under .500.

“We just can’t seem to finish off a rally and we can’t string together three or four good at-bats in a row,” Texas manager Chris Woodward said. “We had some good pretty good hitters in good situations (on Wednesday), but sometimes that’s gonna happen.”

Woodward expressed frustration with a failed opportunity after Isiah Kiner-Falefa doubled to lead off the sixth inning on Wednesday.

“We were battling back in the game, and we get a leadoff double there. We have to find a way to score that run,” Woodward said. “… We have to be ballplayers to get the guy to third base and get him in. That’s something you learn in high school and that’s something we need to do.”

Rangers rookie right-hander Spencer Howard (0-3, 5.61) will take the mound on Thursday afternoon.

Howard, 25, answered a difficult debut with Texas on Aug. 5 by scattering two hits over three scoreless innings against Seattle in his next trip to the mound. That was Howard’s lone career meeting with the Mariners.

–Field Level Media

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