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Boxing was the big story in town Saturday night, just down the street from Globe Life Field, but from the sixth inning on, the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners took turns punching each other in the gut.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa got in a punch, which Rangers killer Kyle Seager answered. Luis Torrens popped the Rangers to start the eighth, and then a whole bunch of Rangers teamed up on the Mariners in the home half of the inning.
The game ended with a remarkable play that served as the knockout blow in the Rangers’ thrilling 9-8 victory in front of 26,616 fans.
“I can’t describe it,” manager Chris Woodward said.
Here’s a breakdown of a wild finish:
Back and forth
The Rangers trailed 4-0 and 5-1 as Kohei Arihara struggled again, allowing all five of those runs in 3 2/3 innings. The Rangers, though, had plenty of offense.
Joey Gallo connected for two home runs to give the Rangers their first three runs of the game, and Kiner-Falefa collected an RBI single as the Rangers closed to 5-4 in the fourth.
He came up big again in the sixth, this time with a two-run single that put the Rangers on top at 6-5.
But Seager swatted a home run off Kolby Allard in the seventh to tie the game, and Torrens connected off John King to start the eighth for a 7-6 Seattle lead.
Adolis Garcia was scheduled to lead off the eighth for the Rangers after Gallo bounced to second with two on to end the seventh.
Garcia fuels wild eighth
Garcia has flourished in his first extended opportunity in the major leagues, and he entered Saturday with seven home runs. None of them had been hit at Globe Life Field.
That changed in a flash, as he hit the first pitch from Anthony Misiewicz in the eighth out to straightaway center field to tie the game.
“He does have a flare for the dramatic,” Woodward said.
Woodward went to the bench, sending pinch-hitter Khris Davis for his first Rangers at-bat. Davis, who was activated from the injured list before the game, roped a single to left field and moved to second on a wild pitch as Kiner-Falefa hit.
He struck out looking, and Woodward sent up another pinch-hitter, Charlie Culberson. The Mariners opted to walk him to face catcher Jonah Heim, who entered the game batting .125.
But he delivered an RBI double to right field that gave the Rangers the lead at 8-7. Heim hit the game-tying home run in the seventh inning Thursday at Minnesota, a game the Rangers won.
“It’s been tough the last month and the hits haven’t been falling,” Heim said. “I came up in a big situation and came through. Confidence is high right now.”
Then, the Rangers caught a break. Willie Calhoun hit a grounder to shortstop. J.P. Crawford fielded the ball and threw home, where Torrens caught it with his foot touching the plate.
The problem for the Mariners is that it wasn’t a force play. Torrens never tagged Culberson as he slid across home, and the error gave the Rangers a two-run cushion.
It turns out they needed that run.
The Rangers were up 9-7 going to the ninth, but the first two Mariners hitters reached against closer Ian Kennedy before he recorded two quick outs. Crawford was the Mariners’ last hope, and flipped a blooper into left-center field.
Garcia and Calhoun, the center fielder and left fielder, were playing deep, and shortstop Kiner-Falefa wasn’t going to catch it. The ball fell in front of Garcia, and deflected to the right off his leg.
“I think Adolis got in no-man’s land, where he felt like he was going to dive and try to make the play,” Woodward said. “At that point he kind of smothered it.”
Mitch Haniger scored, and Kyle Lewis was coming around third as Garcia picked up the ball and fired home. The throw was clocked at 91.7 mph.
“I was praying that Garcia picked it up,” Gallo said. “The way that this guy throws is just unbelievable. When I saw him throw it, I was like, ‘All right, we’ve got a shot here.’ But I knew it was going to one-hop Jonah.”
Heim caught the ball on a short hop and quickly swept a tag in front of the plate to narrowly get the speedy Lewis.
“You see Adolis come up and throw an absolute rocket, and I kind of got scared because the turf doesn’t slow it down,” Heim said. “I was lucky enough to make the pick and make the tag, he made a great throw, and we got out of there with the win.”
Game over, right? Not quite.
The Mariners challenged the play. The Rangers didn’t leave the field because they just didn’t know if, indeed, plate ump Erich Bacchus’ out call would stand.
Now, game over.
“That was just a freak play, and it ended up working out for us,” Gallo said.