SEATTLE (AP) — The Texas Rangers are back in the postseason for the first time since 2016, beating the Seattle Mariners 6-1 on Saturday to clinch a playoff spot in the American League.
Texas (90-71) can claim the AL West title and the No. 2 seed in the AL playoffs with a win over the Mariners in the regular-season finale or a loss by Houston at Arizona on Sunday.
After a traditional clinching celebration in the middle of the clubhouse, the Rangers crowded into a dining room to watch the final outs of Houston's 1-0 win over the Diamondbacks. That win pushed the division race to the final day.
The win by the Astros also eliminated the Mariners from the postseason race, falling short a year after ending a 21-year playoff drought.
The Rangers put together a four-run third inning against Luis Castillo, highlighted by two-out hits from Nathaniel Lowe, Jonah Heim and Leody Tavares that all plated runs. Heim hit a two-run single with an 0-2 count after fouling off three straight pitches, and Tavares’ broken-bat RBI single made it 4-0.
That was all spot starter Andrew Heaney and three relievers needed in shutting down the Mariners.
It’s the ninth postseason appearance for the Rangers, but after reaching the playoffs five times between 2010-16, it’s been a rough stretch for Texas.
The turnaround in the first year with Bruce Bochy in charge was dramatic. Texas reached 90 wins for the ninth time in franchise history, and the Rangers have already made a 22-game improvement over last season when they finished with 68 wins.
The Rangers were on the verge of clinching a playoff spot on Thursday night, only to see Seattle rally with two runs in the ninth inning for a 3-2 victory. They were shut out 8-0 on Friday.
But Texas made Castillo work from the outset, eliminating any momentum that might have carried over from the prior two nights.
Castillo (14-9) was pulled after 2 2/3 innings, the shortest start in his 1½ seasons with the Mariners and tied for the second-shortest start of his career. The right-hander had pitched at least five innings in his previous 32 starts this season but nibbled too much on the edges and found himself in trouble.
Castillo needed 86 pitches to record eight outs. He went to 3-2 counts to seven of the 18 batters he faced and his five walks were one off his season high.
In his final two starts of the regular season, Castillo allowed nine earned runs in 8 2/3 innings.
Heaney made a spot start after the Rangers placed Jon Gray on the 15-day injured list on Friday with a forearm strain. It was his first start since Sept. 4.
Heaney was in control until he got in trouble in the fifth inning.
The Mariners loaded the bases with one out on singles by Ty France, Sam Haggerty and J.P. Crawford. Heaney was lifted and Josh Sborz (6-7) got Texas out of the jam by retiring Julio Rodríguez and Eugenio Suárez.
Rodríguez was hitless in four at-bats and is 1 for 21 on Seattle's final homestand.
Suárez hit his 22nd homer in the eighth inning for Seattle's only run.
Texas brought up veteran right-hander Matt Bush from Triple-A Round Rock for additional depth in the bullpen. Jake Latz was optioned to Round Rock and Alex Speas was designated for assignment.
Rangers: Texas has not announced a starter for Sunday’s finale.
Mariners: George Kirby (12-10, 3.46 ERA) will start the regular-season finale looking to match his performance from his outing earlier this week against Houston, when he threw six shutout innings.