Mariners not ready to call it quits Texas, Anaheim miss chance to bury Seattle

July 16, 1998|By DALLAS MORNING NEWS

SEATTLE -- It's alive.

Given the chance to bury the demon that has tormented them for several years, the Texas Rangers turned meek. They did what they absolutely, positively did not want to do.

They brought the Seattle Mariners back to life.

Seattle continued its gradual rise back to contention in the American League West with a 6-3 victory against the Rangers on Tuesday night at the Kingdome. Mariners All-Star Ken Griffey Jr. drove in four runs with two homers, giving him an American League-leading 39 homers.

Griffey homered against starter John Burkett in the third and reliever Scott Bailes in the seventh. Griffey's two-run homer against Bailes offset a three-run homer by Kevin Elster in the inning.

Burkett allowed five runs in six innings to become the sixth 10-game loser in the AL this season.

The Rangers' situation became worse after the loss. Mechanical problems grounded the airplane that was to take them home. The search for a new plane lasted into the night, and the Rangers were expected to arrive home after sunrise Wednesday. They play Baltimore at 7: 35 p.m. at The Ballpark in Arlington.

On two swings, Griffey matched the Rangers' home run total since the All-Star break. The brownout of their offense goes deeper than the two homers in six games.

The Rangers have scored only 20 runs since the break, and major league RBIs leader Juan Gonzalez has not driven in a run in that span. The Rangers had only four at-bats with runners in scoring position against starter Jeff Fassero.

West-leading Anaheim has lost nine of its last 11 games. The Rangers, who trail Anaheim by a half-game, have lost nine of their last 14 games. Both teams missed a chance to bury Seattle.

The Mariners trail Anaheim by 11 games, but they have made up five games in the standings in the past 11 days of play. An 11-game deficit in mid-July is nothing to Seattle.

In 1995, Seattle trailed the Angels by 11 games with 55 to play and won the West in a one-game playoffs. In September 1996, Seattle used a 10-game winning streak to cut the Rangers' lead from nine games to one. The Rangers won the division.

"Count me as one who never eliminated Seattle," Rangers manager Johnny Oates said. "I have a lot of respect for (Seattle manager) Lou Piniella and what he's done."

The Rangers had gone a season-high 48 innings without a homer before Elster's three-run drive against Fassero (9-5) cut Seattle's lead to 4-3. Oates beforehand repeated his mantra that the object is to score, not hit homers. By AL standards, the Rangers are an average power team, but they lead the league in scoring. For now.

The New York Yankees, who also do not rely on the homer, trail by the Rangers by 18 runs. The Yankees continue to do what the Rangers did early in the season: Get runners on base. Gonzalez's lack of RBIs reflects the Rangers' trouble in that area.

Gonzalez has driven in a run in only two of the last 14 games. Four of his last five RBIs came on homers.

In those 14 games, the Nos. 1-2 spots in the Rangers' order are batting .187 for 107 at-bats. Tom Goodwin, Roberto Kelly and Mark McLemore have been interchangeable in those spots. As good as he is at run production, Gonzalez cannot drive in runners who are not on base.

Since the All-Star break, Gonzalez has only two at-bats with runners in scoring position. Gonzalez had one runner on base in this game and he flied out to right, ending the opening inning.

Shut out for six innings, the Rangers broke loose against Fassero in the seventh.

Oates said beforehand that he still expects the West race to go to the final week. The Rangers are in trouble if that happens. They finish four games at the house-of-horrors Kingdome, where they have lost 21 of their last 27 games.

Pub Date: 7/16/98

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