By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Baseball Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Corey Seager got Texas started with his 32nd homer and rookie Evan Carter added a three-run blast as the Rangers took over the AL West lead for the first time in September with an 8-5 victory over the Seattle Mariners in the opener of a crucial series Friday night.
The Rangers (85-68) and Mariners began the day tied for the American League’s third and final wild-card spot, and a half-game behind reigning World Series champion Houston for the division lead.
But the Astros (85-69) lost at home to 102-loss Kansas City to fall a half-game behind Texas. That pushed Houston into the third wild-card spot and a still a half-game ahead of the Mariners (84-69), who dropped below the playoff line.
Seager, the AL’s leading hitter with a .333 average, snapped a 2-for-22 slide with a first-pitch homer in the first inning off rookie Bryce Miller (8-6). Carter also went deep on the first pitch he saw in the second inning of his 14th big-league game to put Texas up 4-0.
Texas and Seattle played the first of seven games between them over the final 10 days of the regular season. The Mariners’ other remaining three games at home are against the Astros.
After leading the AL West for 148 of the season’s first 149 games, Texas is in back in front for the first time since Aug. 29.
Rangers starter Dane Dunning (11-6) had allowed only one hit until the first three Seattle batters reached to open the sixth inning. Leadoff hitter J.P. Crawford had an infield single, Julio Rodriguez was hit by a pitch and Cal Raleigh followed with his 30th homer to get the Mariners within 8-3.
Dunning gave up four runs over 5 1/3 innings, with two strikeouts and two walks. The Rangers scored six runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings against Miller.
Seattle got a run in the ninth off hard-throwing Aroldis Chapman, who allowed three hits and a walk. He also struck out two before All-Star rookie third baseman Josh Jung’s nice play for the game-ending grounder.
The Rangers, who won their third game in a row since a 10-20 stretch that had knocked them out of the division lead, extended their lead to 8-0 in fifth when facing Miller and two relievers.
Miller was lifted with two runners on and an out before Tayler Saucedo gave up an RBI fielder’s choice grounder to the first batter he faced, and later walked batters in a row — the second was Jonah Heim with the bases loaded. Mitch Garver then had a two-run single after Trent Thornton took over on the mound.
Texas then used three pitchers in the top of the sixth. But Andrew Heaney, the second reliever, needed only one pitch to get an inning-ending groundout after Chris Stratton had given up a bases-loaded walk to No. 9 batter Josh Rojas.
Toronto (86-68) remained the AL’s second wild card after a 6-2 win earlier Friday at wild-card leader Tampa Bay (94-61).
Mariners: Rodriguez was hit by a 91.3 mph slider. The young star was clearly in discomfort after getting struck around his left elbow, but stayed in the game after getting checked on by manager Scott Servais and a trainer.
Rangers: Reliever Josh Sborz, out since Sept. 5 because of a left hamstring strain, threw live BP before the game. Manager Bruce Bochy said Sborz looked sharp but didn’t have an update on the next step for the reliever.
Seattle RHP Logan Gilbert (13-6, 3.77 ERA), who has a 2.83 ERA in eight career starts against the Rangers, faces them in the middle game of the series Saturday night. Trade deadline acquisition lefty Jordan Montgomery (9-11, 3.38) pitches for Texas.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb
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