Seager HR, Smith inside-park shot send Rangers past A’s 10-8

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Corey Seager‘s first four-game homer streak comes with the realization that the slugging Texas shortstop might never match what diminutive teammate Josh Smith did an inning later.

Seager connected on his 20th homer leading off the fifth before the rookie Smith got his first home run in the big leagues on an inside-the-park shot as the Rangers held on to beat the Oakland Athletics 10-8 Monday night.

Smith’s one-out liner in the sixth skipped past sliding center fielder Ramon Laureano and rolled to the warning track. The speedy leadoff hitter slid headfirst across the plate easily ahead of the throw, pausing on his belly briefly before getting up and smiling.

“I honestly never expected that to happen. I think that’s like my first one ever, inside the park,” said Smith, the 5-foot-10 third baseman who is closing in on his 25th birthday. “It almost doesn’t even feel like a homer. Try to get one out of here soon.”

Seager, the $325 million offseason addition, has been getting plenty of the over-the-fence variety. As for circling the bases without that, well, “Probably never,” Seager said.

The A’s cut an eight-run deficit to two in the eighth and had the potential go-ahead run at the plate in the ninth.

Laureano hit a two-run homer and Chad Pinder connected on a three-run shot off Kolby Allard, who was called up from Triple-A earlier in the day.

Tony Kemp stopped an 0-for-21 skid with a double off Garrett Richards. Sheldon Neuse, who homered against his hometown team for the first time with a solo shot in the fifth, had an RBI groundout before Dennis Santana got Vimael Manchin on a groundout.

“To have an opportunity to win that game from where we were, I’ve said it for most of the season, that this team shows that fight to get back into games,” manager Mark Kotsay said. “Probably one of the best offensive innings of the season.”

Brett Martin struck out two in the ninth and has his first three career saves in his past three outings. The left-hander’s streak of consecutive batters retired ended at 12 with Nick Allen‘s two-out single before Elvis Andrus walked and Pinder struck out.

The first of Smith’s three RBIs came on a sacrifice fly popup caught by Andrus, the former Texas shortstop who stumbled over third baseman Manchin in foul territory as Kole Calhoun raced home for a 5-1 Texas lead in the fourth.

Leody Taveras had three hits and three RBIs for the Rangers, both career highs.

Spencer Howard’s defensive gem qualified the right-hander for his second big league win. Facing the potential tying run with two outs in the fifth, the 25-year-old dashed off the mound toward third, grabbed Sean Murphy‘s slow bouncer with his bare hand and threw him out.

Howard (1-1) allowed one earned run in five innings.

The Rangers scored their first two runs on a balk and a wild pitch by rookie Adrian Martinez (2-2). The 25-year-old right-hander allowed six runs – four earned – in 4 1/3 innings with four walks and two wild pitches in his fourth career start.

“Tough outing for Adrian, command issues,” Kotsay said. “Game sped up on him there in the second inning. Kind of showed his youthfulness.”

ABOUT THOSE TEXAS HOMERS

Seager’s four-game homer streak ties Boston’s Rafael Devers and Patrick Wisdom of the Chicago Cubs for the longest in the majors this season. … Smith was the second player since the start of 2017 with an inside-the-park homer for the first of his career. Zach McKinstry did it with the Los Angeles Dodgers against Colorado last season. Smith is the fourth Texas player with an inside-the-park homer as his first.

ROOM TEMPERATURE IS 75

The temperature was 75 degrees instead of the normal 72 inside Globe Life Field after officials in charge of the electric grid in Texas asked residents to conserve energy during the hottest part of the day. The first-pitch temperature outside the retractable-roof stadium was 101 on the ninth consecutive day of triple-digit heat and the 18th this year in the Dallas area.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Athletics: RF Stephen Piscotty was replaced after getting hit by a pitch from Richards. Kotsay said Piscotty was day-to-day with a bruised left forearm. … Kotsay said INF Jonah Bride (right shoulder strain) could start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Las Vegas as early as Wednesday.

Rangers: C/DH Mitch Garver had season-ending surgery for the flexor tendon injury in his right forearm. Sam Huff was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock. … RHP Dane Dunning was placed on the 15-day injured list with a right ankle injury, opening the spot for Allard.

UP NEXT

Oakland RHP James Kaprielian (1-5, 5.06 ERA) hasn’t thrown more than six innings in 24 consecutive starts going back to July 10 last year. It’s the longest such streak for a starter in Athletics history.

Texas RHP Glenn Otto (4-5, 5.26) has lost three consecutive starts with a 9.00 ERA since returning from a 15-day stint on the COVID-19 list.

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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ATLANTA — Matt Olson knew the Atlanta Braves were too talented to stay in a season-long slump.

That’s why no one panicked when the New York Mets’ division lead swelled to double digits in May. Now the Braves are on the cusp of another NL East title.

“It’s a clubhouse full of guys who want to win,” Olson said. “That’s all it’s been since the moment I walked in. That’s No. 1 on the program.”

Dansby Swanson and Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Braves beat New York 5-3 on Sunday night, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closes out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

“We’ve felt this confidence since the beginning of the year,” d’Arnaud said. “It just didn’t go our way early in the year, but pulling on the same rope, having each others’ backs, not trying to do too much. We’re just trying to play the game of baseball and have fun with it.”

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

“We still have three games left in the regular season, we’re still going to the postseason, that doesn’t change, but there’s a lot of learning points that we can take from this series moving forward,” Mets slugger Pete Alonso said. “I thought we played well, but the Braves played better. They played excellent baseball this entire weekend.”

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

“Everyone knew we were underperforming when we were flirting around that .500 range,” Olson said. “It was one of those things where it was trusting the talent we have and the guys in the clubhouse. Everybody was solid, head down, do your work, it’ll turn around and you wind up winning.”

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).