By Larry LaRue The News Tribune
ARLINGTON, Texas — It was a game the Seattle Mariners had played too many times this season; the one where they have a lead, watch the opposition roar back and lose.
This time, the Mariners responded with a six-run eighth inning, stunning the Texas Rangers and delighting their manager with a 10-3 victory that snapped a five-game losing streak.
“You want adjectives? How about refreshing, overly welcome?” asked shortstop Brendan Ryan. “We didn’t get a grand slam or a three-run home run, we did it one base and one run at a time.
“It’s not often you get congratulated for a good at-bat when you hit a ground ball the shortstop can’t handle, but I was tonight …”
Kyle Seager, who had three hits, started the eighth inning with a double off the top of the fence in right-center field. John Jaso, who’d homered earlier in the game, said that was the game-changer.
“Home runs are notorious rally killers, and if that ball goes out, we don’t score six times,” Jaso insisted. “A double keeps the rally going. The pitcher has to pitch with a man on base. The hitter knows a single gets a run home.”
But what about Jaso’s own two-run home run back in the second inning, the one that put Seattle ahead for good, 2-1?
“Like I said, that home run killed the rally,” Jaso said. “That’s a selfish guy for you.”
Jason Vargas won his sixth game by pitching into the seventh inning, where he got two outs but gave up Josh Hamilton’s 21st home run, a two-run shot that made it a one-run game.
In 17 of their 30 losses this year, the Mariners have had just such a lead, lost it and the game. No one in baseball has done it more frequently.
“These kids have battled and fought all season, and put us in position to win most of the games we’ve played,” manager Eric Wedge said. “We haven’t always finished those games off, but they always come back ready to win the next day.
“Even before that eighth inning tonight, our at-bats — our approach at the plate — was as good as I’ve seen all year. It’s not just that we won, it’s how we won.”
The Mariners won with a 14-hit outburst and scored runs when the Rangers muffed plays. Errors by Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus cost Texas runs, but only because the Mariners had put men on base before they occurred.
Seager, who started the night in a 2-for-28 stretch, had three hits to pull his average from .255 to .265. Michael Saunders had three hits and jumped from .226 to .238.
Dustin Ackley and Jaso had two hits and four Mariners drove in runs, with Jaso pushing home three.
“We had a lot of energy in the dugout tonight,” Jaso said. “When Ryan scored on (Suzuki’s) shallow fly ball, that fired everybody up.”
Ryan, who was thrown out at the plate a night earlier, was at it again — pushing the envelope on the bases, and this time it worked.
“It was a real high fly ball to right field and (Nelson Cruz) got under it more than behind it, so I didn’t think he’d get as much on the throw,” Ryan said.
Ironically, if there was one play of the game, it might have come in the fifth inning — on defense, not at the plate.
Vargas ran into trouble, putting three men on base with one out for Ian Kinsler, a long-time Mariners killer. Vargas got a hard-hit ground ball to shortstop.
Ryan knocked it down.
“I call that my two-handed shovel pass to Ackley at second,” said Ryan, who literally batted the ball with his glove to his teammate. “I knew we’d get one, but Dustin made a great spin and we got the double play.”
It got Vargas and the Mariners out of the inning with a lead persevered.
When Vargas came out after 62⁄3 innings, Shawn Kelley worked a shutout inning, left-hander Lucas Luetge struck out pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland, and then Tom Wilhelmsen — working with a seven-run lead — knocked out a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
That produced Seattle’s 22nd win of the season.
A team that began the night with a .226 batting average emerged at .229 with a renewed sense of self.
“Hey, we got our runs that last inning off two pretty good pitchers, Alexi Ogando and Mike Adams,” Ryan said. “We’ll face them again, in tough situations. This should carry over. You don’t do this every time against anybody, but now you know you can do it.
“We did do it. It felt great.”