SEATTLE — The Rangers are counting on Jon Gray to be a top-of-the-rotation horse for years to come. And when he’s been healthy, the hard-throwing right-hander has largely been that this season.
On Thursday night, Gray had a rare off night against the Mariners in T-Mobile Park that was filled with home runs from both teams, late drama and playoff intrigue for Seattle. But Gray battled and so did the Rangers, who lost to the Mariners, 10-9, in 11 innings.
The Mariners were trying to whittle their magic number to 1 to earn a Wild Card berth and play in the postseason for the first time in 21 years, while the Rangers continue to make the most of a difficult season by getting a look at young players and seeing who fits in the mix when Spring Training rolls around again in February.
The Rangers were up to the challenge and battled all the way to the end and then some, but they lost yet another one-run game in a season full of similar defeats. Despite hitting five home runs in the game, including two by Marcus Semien, Texas fell to 14-33 in games decided by one run after J.P. Crawford’s RBI single off third baseman’s Josh Jung’s glove scored Dylan Moore from third in the 11th.
“We had good at-bats,” Rangers interim manager Tony Beasley said. “We did a good job offensively. They matched us and did the same things. It was a weird night of baseball.”
By the time the game ended, it had been six innings since Gray stood on the mound, but the 30-year-old figures to loom large for the Rangers in 2023 and will be expected to shine. He’s also expected to get some help in the starting rotation as the Rangers look to bolster their pitching from top to bottom. The issue with Gray this year has been health.
He’s had three stints on the injured list in 2022: from April 9-18 with a right middle finger blister, from April 20-May 2 with a left knee sprain and, most recently, from Aug. 2-Sept. 11 with a left oblique strain. After the last IL stint, the Rangers built him up to a full workload without a rehab assignment, and it worked for three starts.
Entering the series finale in Seattle, he had posted a 2.08 ERA (three earned runs in 13 innings) while limiting opponents to a .146 batting average in three starts since coming back. But he was not particularly sharp Thursday night, and he had some difficulty explaining why afterwards.
“Everything was wrong tonight,” Gray said. “I didn’t know how my body was working. I couldn’t make an adjustment. But I get another start to iron it out.”
Gray gave up a two-run homer to Mitch Haniger in the first inning, and after the Rangers hit three homers of their own off Seattle starter Marco Gonzales in the top of the third to take a 4-2 lead, Gray gave it right back by allowing another two-run bomb to Haniger in the bottom of that frame.
Gray did his bullpen and his team a solid by staying in the game for five innings and throwing 98 pitches (his most in an outing since July 27), but he gave up another two-run homer, this one to Jarred Kelenic in the fourth. That put the Mariners up, 6-4, and Gray lasted only one more inning.
“It was a lack of command,” Gray said. “I feel like the delivery’s off. Like I’m reaching for the feeling I had before the oblique [injury].”
On a late-September night in which the temperature was 64 degrees at first pitch, the ball was somehow flying out of T-Mobile in bunches, and the Rangers put on an impressive power display, despite having their season home run leader, Corey Seager, out of the lineup for a second consecutive game because of a left forearm contusion.
Sam Huff, Semien and Adolis García went deep in the third inning, making it the first time Texas has hit three homers in an inning since Sept. 22, 2019, at Oakland. Semien added another big fly in the top of the seventh off Mariners closer Paul Sewald. And Nathaniel Lowe followed Semien in the seventh with a solo blast to right field, his 26th of the season.
Overall, the Rangers’ five homers were the team’s most in a game since Sept. 20, 2020, when they hit five against the Angels in Anaheim.
But this game was all about the Rangers just not giving up.
The Mariners scored their seventh run of the game in the bottom of the sixth when Kelenic went deep to right center off lefty reliever Brock Burke, but the Rangers tied it at 7 in the eighth. They took a brief lead in the top of the 10th when Kole Calhoun delivered a pinch-hit RBI single, but the Mariners tied it at 8 in the bottom of that frame with a sacrifice fly by Cal Raleigh.
The Rangers went up, 9-8, in the top of the 11th on a Semien sacrifice fly, but in the bottom of the inning, Dylan Moore led off with a single that pushed automatic runner Kelenic to third, Luis Torrens delivered a game-tying pinch-hit single, and Crawford then came through with the game-winner.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism