ARLINGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers are AL West champions again.
Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre hit long home runs and Craig Gentry had an inside-the-park homer in a 5-3 victory over Seattle on Friday night. About two hours later, the Rangers had their second consecutive division title after the Los Angeles Angels lost to Oakland.
The regular Friday night fireworks show went on as usual after the Rangers (91-66) finished their game.
Fans were then invited to stick around and watch the Angels on the stadium’s large video screen. Several thousand fans stayed in the stands and many of the Rangers players sat on the field with their families.
It is the fifth division title for Texas, which last year went to its first World Series.
“It feels good,” Michael Young said immediately after the Rangers finished. “It feels good, been a total team effort, everyone has done their part.”
Meanwhile, Mariners rookie Anthony Vasquez got to start in his home state for the first time. And the left-hander had no better luck against the Rangers this time.
Vasquez gave up five runs and seven hits, including three home runs, over just 31⁄3 innings.
For the lefty from San Antonio, being back in Texas wasn’t that a big of a deal.
“It was the same as any other. It’s not like I had 100 people here rooting me on. You’ve got to focus on keeping your team in the ball game,” Vasquez said. “I felt good, it’s a matter of executing pitches. That’s where I got myself in trouble.”
Vasquez (1-5) had a pitching line all-too similar to his previous start, in Seattle last Saturday against the Rangers. He also gave up five runs, seven hits and three homers while going only three innings in that game.
“I thought his breaking ball was pretty good, but same thing we’ve been talking about with him — fastball command. Without that, it’s hard to utilize your changeup,” manager Eric Wedge said. “He has to command the ball. That’s what he’s done in the minors. We’ve seen small stretches up here, but we haven’t seen him do it consistently up here. That’s what he has to work on.”
On Friday night, only two of the Texas home runs went over the fence — long drives by Beltre and Hamilton.
With one out in the fourth, Gentry hit a liner to left-center that went to the wall after splitting the gap between two outfielders. Left fielder Mike Carp and center fielder Trayvon Robinson both made diving attempts for the catch, Robinson a few feet behind Carp.
“Carp’s the guy that has a chance at that ball and Tre has to pull behind him,” Wedge said. “You can’t both go for the ball right there. Carp had the angle, and when that happens, Tre has to circle behind him and back him up.”
The speedy Gentry initially wasn’t even running full speed, and made a stutter-step rounding first base before realizing the ball was rolling to the wall. He then took off and scored standing up for his first career homer and the first inside-the-park homer for the Rangers since Nelson Cruz at Oakland on Sept. 4, 2006. Cruz was on base when Gentry got his.
“We did exactly what we were supposed to do, which is attack the ball. We both felt we could get it,” Robinson said. “Thank God we didn’t collide with each other or we probably wouldn’t be talking right now. I thought it was a good effort. Next time, we just need to use a little more communication. It fell right between us. It looked like a movie on the replay.”
That made it 5-0 and chased Vasquez, who pitched one season at Texas A&M before transferring to USC.
Vasquez has given up at least five runs in five of his six career starts and has an 8.89 ERA.
Rangers starter Matt Harrison (14-9) retired 15 of the first 16 batters he faced until four consecutive Mariners reached to start the sixth. Ichiro Suzuki had an RBI single before Robinson walked to load the bases. Dustin Ackley and Miguel Olivo followed with consecutive sacrifice flyballs.
It was the team-leading 61st RBI for Olivio, who also leads the Mariners with 18 homers. No catcher has ever led Seattle in homers or RBI.
Harrison allowed three runs over six innings, giving up three singles and walking two. The left-hander is 4-0 in September, and 6-1 in his career against the Mariners.
Seattle is 4-13 against the Rangers this season. . … Mariners ace Felix Hernandez (14-13, 3.32 ERA) makes his last scheduled start of the season Saturday. His is fourth among AL starters with 220 strikeouts and 230 1-3 innings a season after winning the AL Cy Young Award with a 13-12 record. … Alexi Ogando (13-8, 3.58), given extra rest down the stretch by the Rangers, makes only his third start of September. … Mariners SS Brendan Ryan (back/neck) and OF Casper Wells (sinus affecting equilibrium) are not with the team, and manager Eric Wedge said they are doubtful to play again this season. SS Luis Rodriguez didn’t play a night after a hand injury in the ninth inning at Minnesota.