The Mariners threw away the latest dominant start by Felix Hernandez with a stunning two-out collapse in the ninth inning that permitted the Texas Rangers to claim a 3-2 victory at Globe Life Park.
“It stings,” catcher Mike Zunino said, “but one thing about it is we play a day game (today). A quick turnaround. You have to bounce back. You can’t dwell on it.”
Oh, the Mariners can only hope it’s that easy after watching the Rangers strike for two runs — two soft runs — when Fernando Rodney stood poised to protect a 2-1 victory for Hernandez by retiring the first two batters.
First, Kevin Kouzmanoff’s grounder snuck past shortstop Brad Miller for a single. Rodney then walked Mitch Moreland but should have ended the game when pinch-hitter Donnie Murphy hit a routine grounder to short.
Miller’s flip to second sailed high, and second baseman Robinson Cano had to leap high to keep the ball from going into right field.
“The ball was a routine play,” Miller said.
“Right at me. I’ve got to convert that. Once I bobbled it, second was my best option. I went to try to get it to (Cano) and threw it too high.”
That error loaded the bases, and you could almost feel it slipping away.
The Rangers pulled even when Rodney (0-1) yanked a fastball that Zunino never touched. Kouzmanoff scored on the wild pitch, and the other runners moved to second and third.
Leonys Martin then dinked a game-winning single into short left, which brought the Rangers racing onto the field in celebration. Reliever Pedro Figueroa (1-1) got his first major-league victory after working the top of the inning.
“We put some good at-bats together against Rodney,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “He didn’t have his command, and it helped us. Moreland got a big walk.”
True enough. Still, this was a gift — and the Mariners knew it.
“I mean, that (stinks),” Miller said. “Everybody did their part but me. That’s tough. I’ve just got to make that play next time. But, yeah, everybody played their butts off. It came down to me, and I messed it up.”
The wild finish overshadowed a marvelous pitchers’ duel between Hernandez and Texas ace Yu Darvish through the first seven innings.
“It was everything we thought it was going to be today,” Zunino said. “A 2-0 ballgame going into the eighth. It’s what we had planned. It’s what you expect when you have two guys like that going.”
The Mariners scored their two runs in the second inning after Nick Franklin marked his return to the big leagues by yanking a first-pitch cutter into the right-center gap for a one-out triple.
Darvish had a chance to escape when Justin Smoak chased a 1-2 fastball out of zone for a strikeout, but he walked Dustin Ackley before Zunino poked an RBI single into center for a 1-0 lead.
It was the first run of the season against Darvish, who had a streak of 16 consecutive scoreless innings. The second run came a lot quicker: Abraham Almonte followed with a single to left that scored Ackley. That was all Darvish permitted in seven innings while allowing seven hits, striking out eight and walking two. He has thrown 22 innings in three starts but has yet to throw a pitch with a Texas run on the scoreboard.
Hernandez carried a three-hit shutout into the eighth with nine strikeouts but exited after Martin led off with a line-drive triple just beyond the reach of right fielder Michael Saunders.
When the Mariners summoned lefty Charlie Furbush, the Rangers countered by sending up pinch-hitter Michael Choice for previously announced pinch-hitter Jim Adduci.
Choice delivered a sacrifice fly that cut the Mariners’ lead to 2-1 before Furbush slipped a borderline third strike past Shin-Soo Choo. McClendon then opted for Yoervis Medina to face Elvis Andrus.
Medina got the game to the ninth with a strikeout and, well … we’ve been through that.
“It’s a tough loss for us,” Hernandez said. “All I can say is that’s baseball.”
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