Carlos Gomez had not seen live pitching in more than a week due to a sprained ankle, but he kept asking Texas manager Jeff Banister for an opportunity as a pinch-hitter.
Banister gave Gomez his chance, and the decision helped boost the Rangers' slim playoff chances.
Gomez's leadoff double in the eighth inning started a two-run rally that lifted Texas to a 3-1 win over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night. Shin-Soo Choo's sacrifice fly broke a 1-all tie, and Elvis Andrus followed with an RBI single as the Rangers won their second straight after a five-game losing streak.
More importantly, Texas pulled within 3½ games of Minnesota for the second American League wild card.
"He's been by my side and in my ear the last few days telling me he's ready to hit for us and do things like that," Banister said about Gomez. "It was a situation we felt like it was a good time for him."
It was actually the combination of Gomez and Delino DeShields that manufactured the two runs in the eighth. Gomez doubled off Nick Vincent (3-3), and DeShields followed with a perfect bunt single to put runners at the corners with no outs. Choo hit a fly ball deep enough that pinch-runner Will Middlebrooks scored easily to give Texas the lead, and Andrus' broken-bat single scored DeShields.
"It was a good bunt. It's something I've really taken pride in," DeShields said. "After my first year playing professional ball I got convinced it could be used as a weapon, especially with my speed. It's something I work on every single day."
Seattle lost its fourth straight and squandered an opportunity to move within three games of Minnesota. And it was a major baserunning mistake that came back to bite the Mariners.
"Disappointing night, obviously. A chance to gain ground in this race and you lose another day," manager Scott Servais said.
With one out and runners at the corners in the seventh inning, Yonder Alonso was caught too far off third base as Guillermo Heredia pulled back on a bunt attempt. Alonso was easily thrown out by catcher Robinson Chirinos. Heredia eventually singled against Tony Barnette (2-1), but Ben Gamel popped out to end the threat.
"If it's a strike, I'm sure [Heredia[ puts it down and then Yonder scores easy. It wasn't a strike. He did the right thing, backing off it," Servais said. "But again, Yonder got a little bit too aggressive down the line and they made a play on him. It's a point in the game and where we were at, I thought it was worth a gamble."
Texas starter Martin Perez and Seattle counterpart Mike Leake were both excellent but didn't figure in the decision.
Leake allowed one run in 6.2 innings, scattering six hits and striking out five. His only major trouble came in the second when Adrian Beltre led off with a single, advanced to third on Nomar Mazara's double and scored on Joey Gallo's groundout. Leake limited the damage to just that run and immediately went on a roll, retiring 14 of the next 15 before Andrus reached on an infield single with two outs in the sixth. Leake has allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his four starts since being acquired by the Mariners from St. Louis.
Perez also allowed just one earned run on Gamel's RBI double in the fifth. He gave up four hits and struck out four, pitching at least six innings for the seventh time in nine starts.
"As a pitcher, if I do what I did tonight, we're going to have a chance," Perez said.
Alex Claudio worked the ninth for his ninth save.
Servais said the club is out of time for right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma to return this season. Iwakuma has been rehabbing for months trying to come back from shoulder troubles that first popped up in May. He went on the disabled list May 10 and never returned. Servais said Iwakuma is seeking opinions about whether surgery might be needed to correct the problem.
Back at it
Gomez did some running before the game and Banister said he wanted Gomez to do more defensive drills pregame before putting him back in the outfield.
Rangers: Andrew Cashner (9-10) will make his 26th start of the season. Cashner is 6-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 12 starts since July 5. But he is 1-4 in his career against Seattle.
Mariners: Felix Hernandez (5-4) makes his second start since coming off the disabled list. Hernandez will likely be in the range of 70 or 80 pitches.