SEATTLE (AP) — J.P. Crawford grabbed the celebratory trident and raised it toward the sky eliciting even more cheers from the fans in his home ballpark.
Rarely has a home run — a grand slam in the midst of a playoff chase — felt as fulfilling as this one did for the Seattle Mariners shortstop.
“I feel pretty good right now,” Crawford said. “Anytime there’s bases loaded I just want to get a run in and help the team as much as I can.”
Crawford hit his third career grand slam, Ty France and Josh Rojas had solo homers and the Mariners stayed in the thick of the American League playoff race with an 8-0 win over the Texas Rangers on Friday night.
A night after possibly saving Seattle’s playoff hopes with a two-out, two-run double in the ninth inning to pull out a 3-2 victory against the Rangers, Crawford again came through with a big swing to keep Seattle right on the heels of Houston in the chase for the final wild card spot in the American League.
Seattle (87-73) remained one game behind Houston (88-72) the wild-card standings with two games left, while Texas (89-71) still needs a victory or an Astros loss to wrap up a playoff berth. There also remains the possibility of a three-way tie for the division title.
“Big win. We still need a little help, but we have the opportunity to take care of it ourselves here,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said.
Crawford’s slam – his 19th homer of the season — was off reliever Brock Burke who came in specifically to face Crawford after Nathan Eovaldi faltered. Burke fell behind 3-1 in the count and missed with a fastball in the middle of the plate. Crawford didn’t miss, lining the pitch into the right-field seats for an 8-0 lead.
Crawford is 11 for 16 with 26 RBIs this season with the bases loaded.
“It’s just not giving an at-bat away. Anytime there is a chance to do damage or kill that pulse a little bit for the other team you got to take advantage of that,” Crawford said.
Crawford’s slam was the blow that broke open the game. But it was the conclusion to a two-inning stretch of big at-bats by the Mariners that knocked out Eovaldi (12-5) and provided Seattle’s pitching staff some stress-free innings.
France’s homer leading off the third inning was the first hit off Eovaldi. Two batters later, Rojas hit his fourth homer since being acquired from Arizona at the trade deadline. With two outs in the inning, Eugenio Suárez hit a liner to center field that Leody Tavares overran and fell for a double that scored Crawford from first.
An inning later, Eovaldi allowed a single to Teoscar Hernández, walked Mike Ford and hit France with a 3-2 pitch before Rojas’ RBI single ended his night. Burke took over and Crawford went deep.
“It’s right there in front of us. All we have to do is go out there and win one game,” Eovaldi said. “With last night’s loss and then this one today, it’s tough to just turn the page from those two. But we’ve got to be able to do that, because that’s what it comes down to in the final games of the season.”
Seattle starter Bryan Woo labored into the fourth inning but pitched out of trouble and kept the Rangers scoreless less than a week after giving up six runs to Texas. Woo needed 82 pitches to record 11 outs, but struck out five and worked around three walks nibbling around the plate facing the Rangers’ top hitters.
Texas had runners at the corners with one out in the third but Woo struck out Adolis García and after hitting Nathaniel Lowe on the foot to load the bases got a fly out from Josh Jung to end the threat.
Woo said pitching coach Pete Woodworth said before the game it didn’t matter if 100 pitches were needed to get the necessary outs.
“Probably didn’t need to take that literally, but zeros are zeros especially at this time of year,” Woo said.
From there is was an assembly line of relievers that closed out Seattle’s big league-high 17th shutout. Taylor Saucedo, Trent Thornton (1-2), Isaiah Campbell, Eduard Bazardo and Dominic Leone combined for 5 1/3 innings.
Texas right-hander Jon Gray was placed on the 15-day injured list with a forearm strain, a blow to the staff heading into the playoffs. The Rangers were planning to start Gray on Saturday. Gray is 9-8 with a 4.12 ERA in 29 starts this season.
Rangers: Texas announced postgame that LHP Andrew Heaney (10-6, 4.28) will start. Heaney has pitched in relief in his last six appearances. His last start came on Sept. 4.
Mariners: RHP Luis Castillo (14-8, 3.20) will make his final start of the regular season, looking to rebound after giving up five runs in six innings to Houston in his last start. Castillo is winless in two starts against Texas this season but the last came in early June when he allowed one run in seven innings.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb