What happened to Texas? How Mariners surged past Rangers

Aug 29, 2023, 11:20 AM

Texas Rangers Jonathan Hernández Seattle Mariners...

Texas pitcher Jonathan Hernández reacts after walking in the winning run against the Twins. (David Berding/Getty Images)

(David Berding/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners deserve a ton of credit for what they’ve done since the start of July to move into the lead in the American League West.

MLB insider Verducci: Why Mariners’ dominant pitching is different

The M’s entered that month with a 38-42 record, and things looked dire as they lost five of their last six games in June. But ever since, Seattle is 37-14 as its offense has come around to make the M’s a much more complete team than they were in the first half.

That’s only one part of the equation that has put the Mariners in first place, though. The Texas Rangers were just as hot early in the season as Seattle has been since July, as they jumped out to a 40-20 start. Cracks began to show right before the All-Star Game when the Rangers scuffled through a 5-11 stretch into the break, and despite an eight-game win streak to begin August, Texas has now lost nine of its last 11.

Along the way, the Mariners passed the Rangers in the standings, and going into action Tuesday, Seattle (75-56) sits one game ahead of both Texas (74-57) and the Houston Astros (75-58) for the division lead.

Current MLB Standings: Division | Wild Card

So what’s happened to the Rangers? ESPN senior MLB writer David Schoenfield shared his insight Monday afternoon when he joined Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy.

“They certainly have had problems with their late-game bullpen,” Schoenfield said. “Will Smith blew a couple games, so I know over the weekend they put Aroldis Chapman in as the closer and he blew a lead in the ninth inning (Sunday) and they ended up losing (to the Twins) in extra innings.”

While Mariners fans have become accustomed to dominant bullpens in recent years, Schoenfield, who is a native of the Seattle area, pointed out that people who have followed the M’s going back a few decades can relate to what Texas is going through.

“Longtime Mariner fans will know you can have a great team, and a bullpen can let you down. Those of us who were here in the late 90s remember those years, unfortunately,” he said. “So Texas, great team, but (the Rangers have) bullpen issues and that’s been their big hiccup of late.”

Who will win the AL West?

That’s the big question now as the division suddenly has the tightest race in all of baseball. The Mariners seem to have the advantage when it comes to pitching, the Rangers have the most potent offense, and the defending champion Astros have the most postseason and playoff race experience.

“I was on Texas radio in Dallas last week when the Rangers were still up a game, and they asked me that and I said the Rangers, and I wasn’t really playing to the home radio crowd,” Schoenfield admitted. “I just thought at that time that the Rangers, they’re going to pull out of this. Well, now it’s like five or six days later, they haven’t pulled out of it. So that pressure on that team, that’s really starting to mount because now they’re looking at not only blowing the division but maybe blowing a playoff spot. Then those bad thoughts start creeping in – you know, collapse. ‘Are we going to collapse and blow this thing?'”

That brought to mind more memories from the 1990s Mariners for Schoenfield, albeit one that’s more pleasant in the Pacific Northwest.

“You know, Mariners fans will remember 1995 when the Angels had a huge lead over Seattle (for the AL West title), and it was a combination of Seattle getting hot and the Angels collapsing,” he said. “So that’s a long way of saying the Mariners are so hot right now, it’s hard to pick against them.”

No matter who ultimately takes the division, one thing seems certain: it’s going to come down to the wire, with the Mariners’ final 10 games being three at Texas, three against the Astros in Seattle, and a final four-game home series with the Rangers.

“We all know it’s going to come down to those last 10 games – two series against the Rangers, (one) series against the Astros,” Schoenfield said. “So you’ve got to keep everyone healthy, keep the bats swinging. But yeah, right now I gotta go Seattle.”

To hear the full Bump and Stacy conversation with David Schoenfield, find the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

More on the Seattle Mariners

• Monday: Julio Rodríguez, Mariners stay red hot with 7-0 win over A’s
How good is Mariners’ pitching? It has the Astros worried
Salk: Seattle Mariners in first place? Three things brought them here
Mariners Injury Updates: Kelenic return plan, Murphy status
Morosi: ‘Why wouldn’t you love’ where Mariners are in playoff race?

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What happened to Texas? How Mariners surged past Rangers