SEATTLE (AP) J.P. Crawford stood with his arms out, ready to accept the cooler filled with water about to be dumped across his back.
Even on a chilly night, the water and the celebration around it felt terrific after Crawford kept the Seattle Mariners playoff hopes very much alive.
Crawford lined a two-run double with two out in the ninth inning, lifting the Mariners to a 3-2 win over Texas on Thursday night and stopping the Rangers from clinching a playoff berth for at least one day.
“Honestly, all that was going through my head was just ‘get it done,’” Crawford said. “Like I said earlier, just be him. There's really nothing else to it. Keep it simple, do your job. End of story.”
Crawford has been the backbone to Mariners this season, even with most of the attention being placed on their terrific pitching or young star Julio Rodríguez. But it was Crawford that helped carry Seattle through its struggles early in the season and to the point where the final three games have a chance to be meaningful.
The Mariners (86-73) pulled within one game of idle Houston in the race for the final AL wild card. Seattle also holds the tiebreaker over the Astros.
“Tonight’s about fight,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “You play all season long, spring training, all the work that goes into it and kind of comes down to you need to win a game, you need to get a big hit. And our guys found a way.”
Seattle's rally in the ninth started with the first three batters reaching against Aroldis Chapman (6-5) on two hits and a walk. Jonathan Hernández then came in and retired pinch-hitter Mike Ford on a fly ball to shallow center. Josh Rojas fouled out for the second out, also not deep enough for Cal Raleigh to score from third.
But Crawford went the other way and drove a 1-1 pitch over the head of left fielder Evan Carter, scoring Raleigh and Dylan Moore. The walk-off hit came almost a year to the day of Crawford's last one, which also came against Texas and where Moore scored the winning run.
"What J.P. brings every day and how he goes about it and how he’s turned into a leader on our ballclub, it shows up. Your best players got to play well in the big moments and he did tonight.”
For most of the night, it appeared as if the AL West-leading Rangers (89-70) would be celebrating.
Adolis García hit his 39th homer and Jordan Montgomery pitched six innings of one-run ball. Leody Tavares also connected for the Rangers, who managed just three hits against Logan Gilbert.
“That’s a tough one, a lot of good things tonight, pitching great, at the end just got away, and that’s a tough one. We’ve got to bounce back,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said.
Tavares and García took advantage of the two mistakes Gilbert made, and the Rangers' pitching made it stand up - until the ninth. Tavares hit his 14th homer on a fastball left in the middle of the plate in the third inning, and García clubbed a slider with two outs in the fourth.
Gilbert struck out five in six innings. Aside from the two solo homers and an infield single from Corey Seager, he was masterful. He corrected the control problems that led to four walks last weekend against the Rangers and gave the Mariners a chance.
“They can cover a lot of pitches, especially in the middle of the order there, so it’s not easy but just comes down to execution,” Gilbert said.
Rodríguez hit his 32nd homer of the season leading off the fourth inning, but that was only time Seattle scored off Montgomery despite some traffic on the bases. Jose Caballero was thrown out at third base trying to advance on Crawford’s base hit in the fifth. Eugenio Suárez was stranded after a leadoff double in the sixth.
Montgomery allowed five hits and struck out five. He surrendered two earned runs over his final 27 innings of the regular season.
“It’s only one loss, we’re still top of the division, and still kind of hold our own fate,” Montgomery said. “We’re still a good team, (Chapman's) a really important part of our team, and baseball’s hard some time. We’re just going to be good teammates to him, and keep supporting everybody, and keep doing what we do.”
Andres Munoz (4-7) earned the victory getting the last out of the ninth.
Rangers: Texas has not announced a Friday starter, but it would be the turn for RHP Nathan Eovaldi if the Rangers stay on rotation. Eovaldi (12-4, 3.26 ERA) allowed five runs in five innings against Seattle last weekend and earned his first win since going on the injured list in late July.
Mariners: Seattle announced postgame it will start RHP Bryan Woo, who gave up six runs in 3 1/3 innings vs. Texas last weekend. Woo (4-5, 4.39) has won three of his past five starts, but the three wins were against Oakland twice and the Angels.
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