SEATTLE (AP) — With the bases loaded and a chance to sweep the Texas Rangers at their fingertips, Eric Thames struck out on a fastball right over the middle of the plate.
With the Seattle Mariners’ current struggles with runners in scoring position, nothing could have been more fitting.
Mike Adams worked out of a bases loaded jam in the eighth inning and Mike Napoli and Geovany Soto homered to lead the Texas Rangers to a 3-2 victory over the Mariners on Sunday and preserve a four-game lead over the Oakland A’s in the AL West.
With Oakland’s 5-4 win over the New York Yankees earlier Sunday, the Rangers were looking to keep their distance over the Athletics with a pivotal four-game series against them beginning in Texas on Monday.
Seattle nearly handed their division rival a devastating series sweep.
Trailing 3-2 heading to the eighth inning, Franklin Gutierrez and Kyle Seager singled off Adams to lead off the inning. A chopper to the mound by John Jaso moved the runners to second and third with one out and the Rangers elected to intentionally walk Justin Smoak to load the bases.
With one swing of the bat, the Mariners could erase the sour taste of a 1-for-37 stretch with runners in scoring position. Instead, Thames missed the fastball over the heart of the plate and Adams induced a lazy fly ball to center from Luis Jimenez as Seattle left the bases full. Another chance was squandered in the ninth inning as Gutierrez struck out with the tying run again in scoring position.
“We had a great opportunity there in the eighth inning,” manager Eric Wedge said. “You’ve got to push at least one run across there. You’ve got to put that ball in play — do more than we did.”
Thames said he just missed it.
“The ball was right down the middle and missed my bat,” he said.
Solo homers by Thames and Brendan Ryan off Texas starter Ryan Dempster (12-7) in the seventh inning were the only blemishes to a strong outing. Dempster went 6 2-3 innings allowing two runs and six hits while allowing one walk and striking out eight. Joe Nathan earned his 35th save.
“He’s a veteran pitcher, knows how to get big league hitters out,” Wedge said. “I thought he was really good today.”
The Rangers were again without Josh Hamilton, who has missed the last five games with a sinus issue that’s affected his vision. The Rangers had eight hits off Mariners starter Jason Vargas (14-11).
“I fell behind in those middle innings and got some guys on base,” Vargas said. “I was able to get out of that, the defense made some great plays. I wish we’d been able to take the third game from them though.”
Texas left runners in scoring position in the second and third innings before finally breaking through in the fourth. A solo home run from Napoli gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead. After a walk to David Murphy, Soto followed with a 2-run blast into the Texas bullpen in left field.
“We don’t want to get swept,” Dempster said. “It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, where you’re playing, who you’re playing, if you have a chance to avoid a sweep you want to do that.”
Two-out singles in the fifth inning from Ryan and Michael Saunders gave Seattle its first runner in scoring position of the game. Gutierrez worked a full-count against Dempster but flied out to the warning track in left.
Notes: Hamilton will rejoin the team when it returns to Texas on Monday. Washington said he still isn’t sure when Hamilton will be able to return to the lineup. … The Mariners are 1 for their last 40 with runners in scoring position. … Texas earned its 90th win of the season for the third consecutive year and sixth time in franchise history. Texas has won the season series over Seattle five straight times and in eight of the last nine seasons. … Seattle has homered in each of its last 13 games, a season high. … Vargas has allowed 35 home runs this season.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.