SEATTLE -- Julio Rodríguez connected again, hitting a go-ahead, three-run homer in the seventh inning and the Seattle Mariners finished off a three-game sweep by beating the Texas Rangers 4-2 on Wednesday.
A day earlier, the 21-year-old rookie sensation hit a leadoff home run in the first inning. That was his first swing since the All-Star Game because of a sore left wrist that was initially injured in the final game before the break in Texas.
Rodríguez had a breakout performance in the All-Star Home Run Derby, where he smashed 81 shots over the wall.
This home run was his 18th of the season and came with one out against starter Jon Gray (7-5). Gray had allowed just one run on four hits to that point, but the 416-foot drive into the left-field bullpen erased Seattle’s 2-1 deficit.
The dramatic moment came after Rodriguez switched bats, unhappy with the performance the other one had provided.
“That’s Julio Rodriguez,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “That’s why it’s a fun game. He plays like a kid and he’s fun to be around every day.”
For the player they call “J-Rod," no moment seems too big.
“I honestly love it, because at those moments I feel like everybody is on their feet, everybody is watching, and I just love those moments,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like if you’re not ready to perform in those moments, you’re not going to be having the best fun playing this game.”
The homer ended Gray’s day. He struck out eight and walked four.
“(The pitch) slipped out of his hand,” Texas manager Chris Woodward said. “The only one all day. If he throws his best stuff, I don’t think Julio has a chance, and that kid is good.”
Aside from the dramatic homer, Rodriguez had another big moment in the top of the third when he made a running catch at the center-field wall on Elier Hernandez's flyball to end the inning.
After the game, Seattle starter Marco Gonzales shook his head and laughed.
“I think he’s the best player I’ve ever seen,” Gonzales said. “He’s for sure the best player I’ve ever played with.”
Gonzales (6-10) held the Rangers hitless through the first four innings while allowing just a single baserunner, with Adolis Garcia drawing a second-inning walk and later being forced out on an inning-ending double play.
Gonzales allowed four hits, struck out five and walked one.
Matt Festa pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save.
Seattle scored its first run in the second when Sam Haggerty drove in J.P. Crawford with a bloop double that barely stayed fair down the left field line.
Garcia singled in the Texas fifth and scored on Charlie Culberson’s double. Jonah Heim hit an RBI double in the sixth to put Texas ahead 2-1.
The Mariners improved to 11-2 against the Rangers this year, and have won 17 of their past 20 games.
Mariners: INF Ty France was out of the lineup after tweaking his left wrist on a swing in Tuesday’s game. Seattle manager Scott Servais said it is unrelated to France’s elbow injury from earlier in the season, and his status is day-to-day.
Mariners: RHP Logan Gilbert will start Thursday at Houston. Gilbert struck out eight, but allowed five hits and two earned runs in a 3-1 loss to Houston on Saturday.
Texas: RHP Spencer Howard will pitch for the Rangers Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels. Howard allowed six hits and four earned runs over 4 ⅔ innings in his last start on July 22, against Oakland.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports