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GROWING UP, JOE Milton couldn’t help himself when he saw smoke on the horizon. It didn’t matter how many times his mom warned him about the tractor blades that could chew him up, or how the fumes could aggravate his asthma and cause him to hyperventilate. If the sugar cane fields were being cut and burned, that meant rabbits were running for cover, and that meant game on for Milton.

Chasing rabbits is a Pahokee, Florida, tradition in the fall when farmers clear their land for next year’s harvest. Former NFL cornerback Janoris Jenkins so identified with his hometown and its unique pastime that he preferred to be called Jackrabbit.

Long-limbed and quick, Milton was good at chasing rabbits. And with his mom’s voice in his ear, he really did try to be safe. But when you’re young and full of adrenaline and sprinting after something that doesn’t want to be caught, how careful can you be? If it was a competition, he was going to find a way to win.

Milton recalled a particularly stubborn rabbit who raced toward a canal once. Usually they’d hide in the tall grass near the edge of the water, he said, but this rabbit was acting as if it was going to jump across. Never mind the danger that might be lurking in the water below. “You know what?” Milton decided. “I’m going to follow through with it.”

The rabbit did leap, and a split second later, an alligator rose up and snatched it out of the air with its teeth.

Milton slammed on the brakes. “I’m good,” he thought as he watched the gator devour its dinner.

It was the last time he ran toward the smoke. Ever since, he’s been chasing something more elusive than a scared little rabbit: his potential as one of the most irresistible quarterback prospects the state has produced.

Big, strong and a threat to run the football, he checks every box. But it’s his right arm — the one that gator could have easily mangled — that has become the stuff of legend. College coaches came from all over the country to see the towering passes it sent soaring down the sideline and the way it looked so effortless with just a flick of the wrist.

Teammates laugh at the absurdity of it all, the stories that sound too impossible to be true, like the time Milton threw a baseball 95 miles per hour without warming up. For the longest time, Milton was oblivious to his gift. But if he had to pinpoint the moment he knew he was different, it was his senior year at Olympia High School in Orlando when, on a lark, he got down on a knee and tested how far he could throw a football. It traveled 70 yards.

Only now, after five long years in college, is that talent coming into focus. And not a moment too soon as he takes center stage as the starting quarterback at No. 11 for Tennessee — his second school after transferring from Michigan, and his last chance. On Saturday, on the road at Florida (7 p.m. ET, ESPN), all eyes will be on Milton. How his story ends is anyone’s guess. Bust or first-round pick? Underachiever or national champion?

He’s traveled thousands of miles to get here, from Pahokee to Ann Arbor to Knoxville and points in between. All he has to do now is make the leap from can’t-miss prospect to star — and not get pulled down into the danger below.

“MY NAME’S JOE. I play quarterback at Tennessee.”

Truth be told, Milton didn’t need to introduce himself to the adolescent campers at the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, Louisiana. None of the 40 or so college counselors on hand this past June — not Heisman Trophy contenders Drake Maye, Michael Penix or Jayden Daniels — could match Milton’s 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame. Not to pick on Garrett Greene, who was Academic All-Big 12 Conference at West Virginia last season, but he looked like a child walking beside Milton, barely coming up to his chin.

Milton is larger than life in other ways, too. These kids live on social media, so chances are they’ve seen his jaw-dropping throws like this one or this one. And who among us hasn’t replayed the clip of him throwing an orange 100-plus yards? It has 1.4 million hits and counting on X.

The buzz at the Manning academy on the Nicholls State campus surrounded Milton, and the question seemingly on everyone’s mind: How far would he throw during the passing competition?

During a 15-minute recess, after Milton broke the huddle by doing a standing backflip with the ease of someone stepping over a puddle, one camper asked Milton whether he would set a throwing record, although no formal records are kept. Milton shrugged and laughed if off. But then Greene fanned the flames, telling campers, “He’s going to throw it 105 yards!” Greene might as well have told them Milton would throw it over the moon, their eyes went so wide in disbelief.

Nearby, Peyton Manning, who has seen it all in his Hall of Fame career, also wondered about Milton’s limits — whether he had any. Peyton’s father, Archie, has been putting on the passing academy for 27 years, and Peyton Manning couldn’t recall a time when there was more anticipation for a quarterback. “We usually start to throw on the 30-yard line going toward the other end zone,” he said. “You figure you got 80 yards and that’s safe where you’re not going to run a [receiver] into the goalpost. I’m not sure the 30 is safe with Joe.”

There was a twinkle in Manning’s eye, but he wasn’t being hyperbolic. A Tennessee alumnus, he’s witnessed firsthand what Milton is capable of. While having that big arm is great, Manning said, “I know how much he studies. He’s an accurate quarterback, and he’s a great kid.

“I’m proud of him the way he came in last year after [Hendon Hooker‘s] injury and what a great teammate he was pulling for Hendon,” Manning said. “And I think that bowl win against Clemson can just do wonders for a new quarterback’s confidence. Joe’s a senior, but that was a new role for him and he just played so well. We had a good visit last night talking about the work they’re doing this offseason. I’m excited for him.”

Milton said that one-on-one conversation with Manning was surreal. And it wasn’t small talk, either. Milton said Manning hit him with a flurry of questions: How can you be in the present and not worry about last year? How are you leading the guys? How are you taking on your role every day? Milton assured him he was handling his business.

“Life is good,” he said. “I wake up, I’m happy. I’m not in a headspace where I’m stressing about anything. I’m just having fun.”

For one sweltering day this summer, Milton seemed unburdened — by the past, by expectations, by the pressure of having one season of eligibility left to prove he can be what he’s always dreamed of. The eldest of seven children, he fell back into the joy of tossing the ball around the backyard. It was a lesson in patience, he said, and a not-so-subtle reminder of those early days in Pahokee when anything was possible.

So he didn’t flinch when the first camper to cycle through his station was wearing a navy blue bucket hat with an unmistakable yellow block M across the front. He didn’t seem to notice the irony at all. A few moments later, a camper in a bright orange Tennessee shirt sailed a pass way off target, and Milton stepped in and encouraged him, “C’mon, man, I already know you can throw it.” He said to pay attention to his shoulder placement.

“You have no room for error,” he said, speaking from experience.

THE PLAYCALL WAS perfect. Milton, in his second game starting for Tennessee in 2021, took the snap on second-and-long and dropped back as if to pass when Pitt’s defense bit hard. The weakside linebacker rushed upfield while the defensive tackle in front of him ran a stunt, vacating the A-gap and creating a runway for Milton to take off. Defensive back Javon McIntyre then learned a lesson about angles and Joe Milton: Better safe than sorry. McIntyre, who is 45 pounds lighter than Milton, tried to cut him off before the first-down marker and didn’t even lay a hand on him. A footrace, Milton crossed midfield and sprinted all the way inside the 5-yard line before he was tripped up.

Milton lay on the ground and celebrated by crossing his arms on his chest. Neyland Stadium erupted. Was this the moment they were waiting for? Was this the Cam Newton clone they were promised when he transferred from Michigan in the spring? The arm, the legs, the whole package. “He’s the most athletic, biggest human being I’ve ever seen,” said Milton’s personal QB coach Donovan Dooley. “He looks like an action figure.”

“Soon as I stood up,” Milton said, “it felt like my ankle was loose.”

He played through the discomfort for one more series, but he knew what an MRI would later confirm: multiple ligament tears that would derail his season. And how’s this for irony? The defender who tackled him, Brandon Hill, was a friend Milton knew from Florida.

“I had a life flash,” Milton said. Maybe the universe was trying to tell him something. “My confidence level, I thought I wasn’t good enough to play football.”

It wasn’t just the one play and the injury that had him rattled. It was the whole damned thing: two years riding the bench at Michigan before finally getting his shot, only to then lose the starting job to Cade McNamara, prompting his decision to transfer to Tennessee. What went unreported at the time was that Milton broke his thumb in the second game of the 2020 season against Michigan State — a thought that haunted him going into Week 2 against Pitt a year later.

At Michigan, Milton said he thought he was better than he really was. Sure, he had that big arm — capable of firing passes so hard they’d rip apart the seams of receivers’ gloves — but he was complacent and immature. Dooley put it another way: Milton was playing quarterback rather than living the position by putting in extra hours studying the film and understanding the bigger picture. “He wishes he could have handled some things differently,” Dooley said.

Tennessee was supposed to offer a fresh start, but Milton found more of the same disappointment with the injury. Hooker would step in as his replacement and quickly establish himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the country.

But rather than transfer a second time, Milton made the decision to stay and support the team as best he could. He and Hooker became inseparable. No one cheered on Hooker’s Heisman Trophy run last year more than Milton.

Milton said he looked in the mirror after the injury and told himself, “God ain’t make you this big for no reason. God didn’t make you this smart for no reason.”

He asked God for one more opportunity, and asked himself, “What are you going to do when you get it?”



It’s time for Milton III to put talent on full display

SEC Nation’s Jordan Rodgers and Tim Tebow break down No. 12 Tennessee’s Joe Milton III’s talent and explain why he’s gifted in many different ways.

IT WAS A process, letting go of the residual weight of those injuries and the disappointment of not realizing his potential sooner. But Milton has made peace with it.

Now, he said, he’s changed.

Now, he said, “I want more.”

“As you get older, you see how life works and you see how things can come and go,” he explained. “So I treat it differently. It’s more meaning now, not because it’s my last year but because guys want it more. I see it in their eyes, they’re dedicated. So why not give it my all?”

Don’t just take his word for it. Dooley traveled to Knoxville this summer for a few days of one-on-one work with Milton. It was early in the morning when he arrived at Tennessee’s indoor facility to set up, and Milton was already there. And not just that, he had eight or nine receivers with him. And not just that, he had two other quarterbacks as well.

When Dooley talks about living the position of quarterback, that’s what he means. Not being threatened by competition and leading the entire team. Getting to know the receivers inside and out so they’re in sync when the pressure is on and 90,000 fans are screaming so loud they can’t communicate verbally.

“It’s a total 180,” Dooley said. “Joe’s a different Joe. He’s a man now.”

Again, don’t take just one person’s word for it.

Ask defensive lineman Omari Thomas.

“I’ve seen Joe just be able to be himself,” he said. “I feel like that’s what helps Joe thrive in different situations is him being able to be himself, being able to be happy, be uplifting, and just be the person he is.”

Ask tight end Jacob Warren.

“I’ve noticed a shift in just how he carries himself and how he handles interactions with everybody — people around the building, whether it’s the janitor or people down in our dining hall,” he said. “He knows he’s Joe Milton. Everyone knows he’s Joe Milton.”

Coach Josh Heupel said it’s important to remember college athletes are still young and learning. When Hooker suffered a season-ending knee injury last year, Milton took over and was 2-0 as the starter.

“For Joe and his journey — the ups and downs that he’s had from growing up, to Michigan, to Tennessee — it’s all a product of who he is today and has helped make him as strong as he is,” he said.

Hooker showed what’s possible in Heupel’s up-tempo offense, scoring 32 touchdowns and winning SEC Offensive Player of the Year last season. A more mature, well-rounded Joe Milton has people buzzing about beating Alabama two years in a row and making a sneaky run for the Heisman Trophy.

Thomas is no longer surprised by anything Milton does, especially with a football in his hands. Thomas will be in practice and marvel at the speed and accuracy of Milton’s passes.

“He might be joking around and somebody will throw him a ball from the 50 and he’ll hit the goal post,” Thomas said. “I just don’t feel like it’s normal.”

It’s not.

Missouri cornerback Kris Abrams saw it firsthand last season when Milton came on in relief of Hooker and was a perfect 3-for-3. “He threw a bomb!” Abrams said, dumbfounded months later by Milton’s 58-yard pass in the fourth quarter. The only comparison he could come up with for Miltons’ arm was former LSU great JaMarcus Russell. But, Abrams added, “He can run it, too.”

Heupel had another comp: Brett Favre.

It’s not just that Milton can fit the ball into tight windows, Warren said, it’s that he can pick any window on the field he wants — whether it’s smack-dab between two defenders or a spot 70-plus yards downfield.

No one else in the country can make those throws, Warren said.

“No doubt that guy can.”



Joe Milton shows off arm strength at Manning Passing Academy

Tennessee QB Joe Milton puts his electric arm on display at the Manning Passing Academy.

WHEN THE MOMENT finally arrived, Milton dressed for the occasion. He put on a fresh Manning Passing Academy cap for the night’s throwing competition, turning it backward, and black socks with “I’m Expensive” written in white lettering. And, despite the sun setting an hour earlier, he wore sunglasses for good measure.

“He’s got a hose!” Cooper Manning, the emcee, warned the crowd before one of Milton’s early throws. He told the volunteers to clear out of the bushes behind the end zone just in case they got pegged.

Cooper laughed into the microphone after one of Milton’s 50-yard-plus bombs. He said he’d never seen anything like it.

“Can you get arrested for having a big arm?” he asked incredulously.

Then Milton really went for it, taking a breezy crow hop and letting it fly on a post route.

“Holy cow!” Cooper said before the towering pass had even reached its zenith.

It traveled at least 80 yards to the back-left corner of the end zone. Texas quarterback coach Brian Thiebaud said it was “the craziest throw I’ve ever seen.”

Finally came the main event: the Long Shot challenge. Three golf carts were set up on the field, dressed in oversized bull’s-eye targets. One cart ran the equivalent of a short drag route. Another cart ran an intermediate post. And the final cart ran a go-route straight down the sideline, punching the gas.

The college quarterbacks went in alphabetical order. Some hit the first target, some hit the second. But none hit the third target until Milton stepped up and made it look easy.

His final pass came down hard on the golf cart in the end zone, and Guidry Stadium erupted in applause.

Milton did a backflip as an exclamation point.

Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers was waiting his turn and couldn’t believe what he’d seen. Milton, he said, has the “strongest arm in the world.”

“I saw Anthony Richardson last year,” Rogers said. “I think it’s flying over his ball.”

Jim Nagy, a former scout who runs the Senior Bowl, flashed back to Richardson, too. The former Florida quarterback punctuated his Long Shot performance with a backflip as well. Viewed as an unproven passer with untapped potential, Richardson wound up getting selected with the No. 4 overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts.

Sound familiar? The knock on Milton has always been that he struggles with the short-to-intermediate passes. Sometimes he throws it too hard, sailing it over or through his receivers’ hands. Dooley said against Clemson, “He was proving to himself that he could get this s— done.” But the questions about Milton’s touch persist. “We’ve done every goddamn drill I can think of,” Dooley said. “Right now, either we can do it or we can’t. It’s as simple as that.”

“In terms of any quarterback in his class, he’s maybe the guy I’m most excited to see what it looks like,” Nagy said. “Because the physical tools are undeniable. I mean, the arm strength and the athleticism.”

Milton might not be in the same conversation as top-five prospects like Caleb Williams or Maye right now, but don’t be surprised if he’s a quick riser. While accuracy and processing ability are the two most important traits NFL general managers and scouts are looking for, Nagy said, “It’s hard not to become enamored with arm strength when you’re an evaluator.”

Richardson isn’t the only example. Josh Allen completed a pedestrian 56.2% of passes and 21 interceptions in 27 games at Wyoming, and he’s blossomed into a star for the Buffalo Bills.

But we’re probably getting ahead of ourselves. Milton has to get through this season first. Up next is a game on the road against the Florida Gators on Saturday.

Rest assured that Milton is confident he and Tennessee will come out on top. As he told reporters at the Manning Passing Academy, “I don’t lose in Florida.”

But that wasn’t the only interesting thing he said before leaving Thibodaux. Before he stepped into the main interview room, he told ESPN the exact answer to the question so many had been asking: What’s the farthest he’s thrown a football?

He’d given only ballparks before — 80-plus, 90-something, far enough. But he went into specifics this time.

“Ninety-seven yards,” he said.

He wasn’t joking.

If he made 80-plus look easy, imagine if he reared back and really put his whole body into it?

With Joe Milton, anything feels possible.

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Buffs fall out of AP Top 25; Buckeyes up to No. 4




Buffs fall out of AP Top 25; Buckeyes up to No. 4

Colorado and Deion Sanders fell out of The Associated Press Top 25 college football poll Sunday after a resounding loss in one of the weekend’s showcase games, and the teams toward the top of the rankings were shuffled and tightened.

A season-high six teams received first-place votes, the most since the 2016 preseason poll. Georgia is still where it started at No. 1 but is down to 55 first-place votes out of a possible 63.

Michigan remained No. 2 and got a first-place vote. Texas stayed at No. 3 with two first-place votes. Ohio State moved up two spots to No. 4 and got a first-place vote after beating Notre Dame with a touchdown on its final offensive play.

The Fighting Irish slipped to two spots to No. 11.

Florida State dropped a spot to No. 5 after a victory at Clemson, but it nevertheless received three first-place votes.

No. 6 Penn State and No. 7 Washington each moved up a spot. The Huskies received a first-place vote.

USC fell three places to No. 8, while No. 9 Oregon and No. 10 Utah each moved up a spot to give the Pac-12 four teams in the top 10 for the first time in the history of the conference.

The Ducks’ blowout of Sanders’ Colorado team knocked the Buffaloes all the way out of the AP Top 25 from No. 19.

Colorado has been the story of the early season, starting 3-0 after winning just one game last season. The Buffaloes jumped into the rankings with an opening-week upset of TCU, last season’s national runner-up.

After the Buffaloes were dominated at Oregon, USC comes to Boulder next week to give Colorado a chance to either jump back in the rankings or become an afterthought for voters for the rest of the season.

Utah’s victory over UCLA sent the Bruins falling out of the poll, leaving the Pac-12 with six ranked teams after two weeks with a conference-record eight.

Alabama, which fell out of the top 10 last week for the first time since 2015, inched up a spot to No. 12 after beating Ole Miss, which dropped five spots to No. 20.

Poll points

Six teams receiving first-place votes is the most in a regular-season poll since Nov. 1, 2015.

In that poll, Ohio State was the No. 1 team, and like Georgia, it had been that way since the preseason as the defending national champion. The Buckeyes received only 39 first-place votes. No. 2 Baylor got six first-place votes, as did No. 3 Clemson. No. 4 LSU got five. No. 5 TCU received four and No. 7 Alabama had one.

Moving in

Three teams entered the rankings this week, all for the first time this season:

No. 23 Missouri is ranked for the first time since a brief stay in 2019.

No. 24 Kansas is ranked for the second consecutive season. The Jayhawks have not had two straight years with poll appearances of any kind since 2008-09.

No. 25 Fresno State, which has won 13 straight games, the second-longest streak in the country behind Georgia, finished last season at No. 24.

Moving out

Joining Colorado and UCLA in falling out the poll was Iowa. The Hawkeyes have yo-yoed in and out of the rankings and did not receive a point this week after getting shut out at Penn State.

Conference call

The SEC moves back into the top spot, though more than half are in the bottom batch.

SEC: 7 (Nos. 1, 12, 13, 20, 21, 22, 23)
Pac-12: 6 (Nos. 7, 8, 9, 10, 16, 19)
ACC: 4 (Nos. 5, 15, 17, 18)
Big Ten: 3 (Nos. 2, 4, 6)
Big 12: 3 (Nos. 3, 14, 24)
Mountain West: 1 (No. 25)
Independent: 1 (No. 11)

Ranked vs. ranked

No. 10 Utah at No. 19 Oregon State: First ranked matchup between the two after 25 meetings.

No. 24 Kansas at No. 3 Texas: The first time the Jayhawks have played the Longhorns when they are ranked.

No. 13 LSU at No. 20 Ole Miss: The 11th ranked matchup in the rivalry.

No. 11 Notre Dame at No. 17 Duke: Maybe the biggest home game in Duke history will be the first trip to Durham, North Carolina, for ESPN’s “College GameDay.” With Duke off the board, only six schools in Power 5 conferences have not hosted the pregame show: California, Illinois, Maryland, Rutgers, Syracuse and Virginia.

Coaches’ poll

Ohio State’s victory over Notre Dame helped the Buckeyes creep up a spot to No. 3 in the AFCA Coaches Poll. No. 1 Georgia earned 61 of 64 first-place votes, while No. 2 Michigan earned two votes and No. 8 Washington got the other.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Texas lands 4-star Baker, No. 2 OT in 2024 class




Texas lands 4-star Baker, No. 2 OT in 2024 class

Texas‘ on-field success to begin the 2023 season — highlighted by a Week 2 victory in Tuscaloosa over Alabama — is translating to the recruiting trail.

Four-star offensive tackle Brandon Baker committed to Steve Sarkisian and the Longhorns on Sunday night.

Baker (No. 39 in the 2024 ESPN 300), the No. 2 offensive tackle in the cycle, becomes the ninth ESPN 300 pledge for the Longhorns in a class ESPN has 17th in its latest team rankings.

Texas won out for Baker’s pledge over Ohio State, Florida State, Oregon and Nebraska.

The Mater Dei High School (California) product would be the first ESPN 300 offensive tackle to sign with the program since Devon “DJ” Campbell, Kelvin Banks and Neto Umeozulu were all part of a 2022 class that was ranked fifth by ESPN.

Texas’ offense has averaged 432.8 total yards through four games (seventh in the Big 12) and is fifth in the conference with 277 passing yards a game.

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Rangers finish sweep of M’s, lead AL West by 2.5




Rangers finish sweep of M's, lead AL West by 2.5

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers secured a crucial three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners in the tight AL West by hanging on through a rough patch from a bullpen that not long ago threatened to derail a promising season.

Suddenly 2 1/2 games up in the division after a 9-8 victory in their home finale Sunday, the Rangers hit the road for the final seven games looking to wrap up the No. 2 seed in the American League playoffs and home-field advantage in a Division Series.

“I packed like a normal seven-day trip,” Texas starter Nathan Eovaldi said. “We can always buy more clothes on the road. Yes, it’s a lot more clear. But we still have a lot of work that has to be done.”

Marcus Semien homered twice, and Corey Seager had an early two-run shot among a season-high six homers for the Rangers as they withstood two Seattle rallies.

Adolis Garcia, Leody Taveras and rookie Evan Carter also went deep for the Rangers, who had their most homers in a game at Globe Life Field, which opened four seasons ago.

Texas (85-70), in its first winning season since 2016, won its fifth consecutive game while defending World Series champion Houston, which started the weekend with a half-game lead in division, was swept at home by 102-loss Kansas City.

Teoscar Hernandez, who homered, drove in two runs for the Mariners along with Jarred Kelenic and Eugenio Suarez. Seattle nearly erased deficits of five and four runs before getting swept for the second time in three series.

Seattle (84-71) trails Houston by a half-game for the third and final wild card.

The Mariners play their final seven games at home, starting with the Astros on Monday before meeting Texas again in a season-ending four-game series. The Rangers start the week at the Los Angeles Angels.

“We will turn the page,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “We will let it go. I know there will be 45,000 of our closest friends there helping us out the way they can. It’s going to be super exciting. What can I say?”

Texas reliever Chris Stratton gave up consecutive two-out RBI singles to Hernández, Kelenic and Suárez as Seattle closed to 9-8 in the seventh before Jonathan Hernandez came on to get pinch-hitter Dominic Canzone on a popout.

After Jonathan Hernández faltered with two outs in the eighth, Brock Burke replaced him and struck out Cal Raleigh with runners on second and third.

Jose Leclerc finished for his fourth save, with first baseman Nathaniel Lowe making a nifty snag of a sharp grounder down the line from pinch-hitter Jose Caballero for the final out with the potential tying run at second base.

“We got through it,” Texas manager Bruce Bochy said. “We used a lot of pitchers, but we found a way to get through it. Great series. Entertaining series. A lot of drama.”

That bullpen was a big part of the reason the Rangers dropped as far as three games back earlier this month after leading the division all but one day of the season into late August, but Texas got the crucial outs needed in all three games to improve to 8-1 against the Mariners this season.

“We did what we were hoping to do,” Bochy said. “To get a sweep, that’s tough to do against a good club like Seattle. We have seven games left here so we’re in better position than … not too long ago. Just shows you the fight in this club, the determination.”

Semien hit his 10th leadoff homer this season, extending his club record. The drive came off Bryan Woo, who gave up a double to Semien and a single to Seager on the first two pitches of his major league career in his debut at Texas in June.

A solo shot in the fourth gave Semien his third multi-homer game this season, all in September, on a drive to center that caromed out of the glove of Julio Rodriguez and over the wall.

Semien’s 27th homer that could have been an out on a spectacular play gave him 178 hits for the season, but Rodríguez retook the AL lead with two hits for 179 as they jockey for tops in the league in that category.

“No, I think it was more Julio saying I owe him one,” Semien, a second baseman, said when asked if his teammates said anything in the dugout. “I don’t think a ball at second base can get over the fence, so I’ll have to figure out a way to give him something back.”

Seager’s 33rd homer gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead in the third, and Taveras ended Woo’s outing with his 13th home run, a two-run shot in the fourth.

Woo (4-5) matched the six runs he allowed in his debut against the Rangers, in 3 1/3 innings this time after lasting just two innings in Texas’ 16-6 win on June 3.

Eovaldi (12-4) won for the first time since July 18, making his fifth start since missing seven weeks with a right forearm strain. He left with the bases loaded and a 7-2 lead in the sixth, but ended up allowing five runs in five-plus innings.

Attendance spike

The Rangers drew 35,412 fans to finish the season at 2,533,044, an average of 31,272. The total was the club’s largest since 2016, the last time Texas had a winning record. The Rangers saw a 26% increase from last season, the biggest year-to-year jump since a 31% increase from 1995 to 1996.

Up next

RHP Luis Castillo (14-7, 3.06 ERA) pitches for Seattle against Houston. He is fourth in the AL in ERA.

RHP Jon Gray (8-8, 4.22) is set for Texas to open a three-game series at the Los Angeles Angels on Monday. He hasn’t made it through the fourth inning in any of his past three starts.

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