Rangers clinch first postseason berth since 2016

SEATTLE — It took 161 games, but the Texas Rangers clinched a postseason berth for the first time since 2016 with a 6-1 win over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night at T-Mobile Park.

The win assured the Rangers of at least a wild-card spot in the American League playoffs.

They left the field awaiting the outcome of the Houston Astros‘ game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix, a game the Astros won 1-0 to clinch a playoff berth. The American League West is still up for grabs with one game to go; a Rangers win on Sunday against the Mariners or an Astros loss to the Diamondbacks would clinch the division for Texas. The Astros hold the tiebreaker over the Rangers, however, so a Houston win and Texas loss on Sunday would clinch the division for the Astros.

The Mariners’ defeat on Saturday combined with Houston winning eliminated Seattle from playoff contention despite two spirited wins in the first two games of the series against Texas.

The pitching matchup seemed to favor the Mariners; they sent ace Luis Castillo to the mound to face a Rangers team that found itself scrambling after starter Jon Gray was placed on the 15-day IL on Friday.

Rangers manager Bruce Bochy, who won three World Series titles with the San Francisco Giants in the 2010s before returning to the dugout after a three-year absence, chose Andrew Heaney, who hadn’t started a game since Sept. 4. Heaney exceeded expectations, throwing 4⅓ scoreless innings.

Heaney left with the Rangers leading 5-0, but suspense remained. Bochy had to coax 14 outs from his bedraggled bullpen, and as he has so many times in the postseason, Bochy mixed and matched to perfection. The combination of Josh Sborz, Cody Bradford and Jose Leclerc answered the call, with Eugenio Suarez‘s eighth-inning homer off Bradford accounting for the only Mariners’ run.

Leclerc, who assumed the closer role this month for a bullpen that leads the majors in blown saves, got the final four outs for his fifth save. Castillo lasted just 2⅔ innings, needing 86 pitches to get eight outs and leaving the game after allowing four runs in the third inning.

The Rangers’ rally materialized out of nowhere and then refused to end: With two outs and Marcus Semien on first, Adolis Garcia topped a dribbler down the third-base line that stayed fair longer than it had any right to. The infield hit was followed by three hits and two walks, ending Castillo’s outing. He allowed four hits — none of them hit particularly hard — and five walks, three of them after two were out.

The four-run third inning deflated the boisterous crowd of 44,694 at T-Mobile Park. The Mariners, with two stirring wins over the Rangers to open the series, had come into Saturday night with the faint hope of making the playoffs for a second straight season.

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