Red-hot Mariners aim to continue ascent vs. Rangers

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The Seattle Mariners have weathered the storm after being shorthanded due to the suspensions of three key position players.

Now with all three back, the club will look to stay hot entering the opener of a four-game series against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas.

The Mariners have won 10 straight after sweeping the Washington Nationals in a doubleheader.

Three Seattle players — Jesse Winker, J.P. Crawford and Julio Rodriguez — were suspended for their involvement in a June 26 brawl with the Los Angeles Angels.

“I was hoping we’d keep our head above water, and we did more than that, obviously,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We had a lot of guys step up offensively when we were losing big pieces.”

Servais credited his pitching for the team’s recent success.

“Pitching-wise, it’s been the key for us throughout this run,” Servais said. “Our starters have given us a chance to win on a real consistent basis.”

Winker, who hadn’t played since July 3, homered in each game of Wednesday’s doubleheader. Rodriguez announced he will participate in the Home Run Derby in the All-Star Game festivities in Los Angeles next week.

“I don’t think you ever want to miss six games, but yeah, I took advantage of the time and got some good work in,” Winker said.

Crawford previously had served his suspension.

Mariners left-hander Marco Gonzales (5-9, 3.24 ERA) will take the mound in the series opener on Thursday while the Rangers will go with left-hander Martin Perez (7-2, 2.72).

The 31-year-old Perez has been a major pickup for the Rangers, emerging as an American League All-Star after he had a 7-8 mark and a 4.74 ERA with the Boston Red Sox in 2021.

Being named to the AL squad came the same weekend that Perez got engaged to his longtime girlfriend.

“It’s really amazing,” Perez told MLB.com. “Everything just came together. Everything is going the right way. So I’m really happy with my life now. It’s really good.”

Perez has an 8-5 record and 3.42 ERA record in 26 career appearances (23 starts) against the Mariners. He allowed two runs on seven hits in six innings in a no-decision vs. Seattle on June 5.

Texas shortstop Corey Seager had his string of five straight games with a home run snapped in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the Oakland Athletics. The Rangers had won four of their last six games heading into Thursday’s series opener.

Seattle, however, has won four of the six meetings against Texas this season.

Gonzales will make his third start of the season against the Rangers. In his two previous head-to-head outings, he’s 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA. And for his career, the 30-year-old is 8-7 with a 3.75 ERA in 18 starts.

Gonzales has a 2.89 ERA in his last seven starts but has only a 2-4 record to show for it. In his last start, however, he allowed two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings of an 8-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

The last time the southpaw faced the Rangers was on June 4, when he gave up three runs in seven innings to take the loss.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.