By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Seattle Mariners had an answer for Chris Young’s first-inning problems Wednesday afternoon but couldn’t counter Shin-Soo Choo’s tie-breaking homer in a 4-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.
Or umpire Jeff Kellogg’s elastic strike zone.
Yes, the Mariners had some squawks about Kellogg’s work, particularly with the tying run on second base in the eighth inning with Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager at the plate.
The pitch-tracking technology appeared to validate the Mariners’ irritation — for whatever that’s worth. In the end, Young summed it up best:
“You’ve got to be better than their guy. That’s the way I look at it. Whether you give up 10 or give up one, you’ve got to be better than their guy. That’s what the game is about. I wasn’t today.”
Their guy was right-hander Nick Tepesch, who squandered an early 3-0 advantage by yielding three runs in the fourth before the Rangers regained the lead on Choo’s leadoff homer in the fifth.
The Mariners put the tying and go-ahead runs on base with one out in the seventh, and put the tying run at second with one out in the eighth. And whether aided or not, the Texas bullpen held on.
“There’s nothing you can do now,” said Cano, who chased a 2-2 pitch for a strikeout in the eighth after seeing what appeared to be an outside pitch on 2-1 called for a strike.
“It’s over. Turn the page and get ready for tomorrow.”
The loss forced the Mariners to settle for a split in the two-game series at Globe Life Park, ended a 2-3 road trip and dropped them back under .500 at 22-23.
“We battled a lot of elements today,” manager Lloyd McClendon said in choosing to be diplomatic. “We just came out on the short end … I’ll leave it at that.”
The Mariners return today to Safeco Field to begin an 11-game homestand, their longest of the season, with the first of four games against Houston.
“We feel good about ourselves,” Seager said. “We’ve had some injuries. Offensively, we haven’t really clicked yet. We’ve had some big hits, but I don’t think everybody is swinging it as well as they can or like to.
“There was no panic when things weren’t going the right way. And when things are going the right way, it feels like that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
Young (3-2) recovered from a dreadful start — the first five batters reached safely in a three-run first inning — and pitched into the seventh.
“I just didn’t have my rhythm in the first inning,” he said. “I dug us a hole, and it was just too deep of a hole. I’m frustrated by it, but I had to find a way to keep going. I felt better after that.”
After Texas jumped to that early lead, the Mariners answered with three runs in the fourth inning. Cano contributed a two-run homer on a line drive to center that just cleared the wall.
Young protected the tie through the Texas fourth but started the fifth by serving up a Choo’s homer, which appeared aided by the wind.
“In some places,” Young said, “it’s not (out). It was here. It’s part of the elements. If it was a better pitch, maybe he doesn’t hit it out. I thought it was a pretty good pitch — but it wasn’t because he’s a very good hitter.”
That ended the scoring, although the Mariners made it interesting.
Tepesch (1-0) carried that one-run lead into the seventh before exiting after one-out walks to Dustin Ackley and John Buck.
When the Rangers brought in lefty Robbie Ross, the Mariners countered by using Stefen Romero as a pinch-hitter for Brad Miller.
Romero grounded into a double play.
The eighth went down a little harder.
James Jones led off with a walk against Neal Cotts and went to second on Michael Saunders’ sacrifice bunt.
Cotts chose to pitch to Cano with a base open and got a break when Kellogg called a strike on a 2-1 slider that appeared to dart well outside of the strike zone. Cano then struck out on an outside fastball.
“Yeah, of course (it affects you),” Cano said. “You don’t know what else they’re going to call.”
Cotts seemed to catch another break when his first pitch, another slider, to Seager appeared to be well outside.
“It shouldn’t (affect me),” said Seager, who struck out on three pitches. “I should be able to gather myself, but it definitely bothered me. You’ve got to try to not let the pitches carry over.”
Joakim Soria closed out Tepesch’s victory by pitching a one-two-three ninth for his eighth save in eight chances.