Rangers give up lead, then nearly rally
Cotts allows four runs in eighth; game ends on Beltre's double play
SEATTLE -- Elvis Andrus saw Adrian Beltre crush the baseball and had one thought.
"Everybody was going to score," Andrus said. "That was a crazy inning. That was the hit we were looking for all night. I thought it was on the right-field line and everybody was going to score."
Nobody scored. The only Rangers player near home plate was Beltre, who stared off into space in disbelief after Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak made a tremendous game-saving catch and then stepped on first base.
Smoak's play snuffed out the Rangers' ninth-inning rally against closer Fernando Rodney and gave the Mariners a 6-5 victory on a chilly Friday night at Safeco Field.
"It's just tough to swallow," Beltre said. "Everybody had a great at-bat trying to battle back. I was just looking for a pitch high over the plate so I could drive it to the outfield. I put a good swing on it, and Smoak made a hell of a play that saved the game. What else can you say?"
The Rangers led 3-2 going into the bottom of the eighth before the Mariners rallied for four runs off reliever Neal Cotts. But the Rangers almost stole it in the ninth. They had the bases loaded with one out against Rodney, who then walked both Michael Choice and Andrus to force in two runs.
That brought up Beltre, who was playing for the first time since coming off the disabled list. He had a RBI double in his first three at-bats. This time he smacked a line drive down the first-base line and Smoak went to his left to make a diving catch. Andrus had no chance to get back.
"I saw it, but when I dove it was just doing whatever I could to try to catch it and put a glove on it," Smoak said. "It just happened to go in and I knew we had a double play once I caught it."
"It was a little surreal when I hit it," Beltre said. "I thought he had no chance. I hit a ball down the line, a right-handed hitter that is normally a pull hitter, and somehow he reacted really fast … I would have rather had a slow roller and be thrown out at first and at least get the run in."
The Rangers would have preferred to have closed this one out without needing any ninth-inning heroics. But Cotts struggled and couldn't get anybody out in the eighth while trying to protect a one-run lead in relief of starter Robbie Ross and reliever Jason Frasor.
"I just didn't pitch very well," Cotts said. "I couldn't keep the ball on the plate and I wasn't close enough to get any swings out it."
The Mariners entered the game having been outscored 18-0 in the eighth inning this season. The Rangers were also 7-1 when leading after seven innings before this one got away and cost Ross a chance for his second victory as a starter.
Ross went six innings and allowed two runs on six hits. He didn't walk anybody but he did hit three batters, tying a club record done 11 times previously by 10 pitchers. Charlie Hough did it twice and Ferguson Jenkins was the only one to do it while getting a win.
"Very disgusting," Ross said. "I kept cutting my changeup. It wasn't my slider. I pegged two guys with changeups that I had cut. Terrible."
Ross left after six innings with a one-run lead. Frasor pitched a scoreless seventh and then Cotts came in to pitch the eighth with left-handed hitter Robinson Cano leading off. Cano started the inning with a single to left.
That brought up two right-handed hitters and the Rangers had right-handed pitcher Alexi Ogando in the bullpen. But the Mariners also had two left-handed hitters on the bench in Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders so manager Ron Washington stayed with Cotts.
"For me I thought he was the right guy in the right situation," Washington said. "Things just didn't go his way."
Cotts got ahead of Corey Hart but couldn't put him away. Instead he hit him with a full-count cut fastball that ran too far inside. Stefen Romero went up to sacrifice bunt and laid one down the third-base line that stayed fair for a single that loaded the bases.
That brought up Smoak, a switch-hitter whose career numbers are slightly better from the left side. So Washington stayed with Cotts and Smoak lined a double to left to bring home two runs. Kyle Seager, a left-handed hitter, then singled to left made it 5-3 with runners still at the corners.
As far as his plan for Ogando, Washington said, "I wanted to make sure he wasn't cold so we got him up early and I was going to use him once we got past Seager. Cotts is not a situational pitcher."
Washington then brought in Ogando, but with Ackley at the plate, Ogando threw a wild pitch to bring home Smoak. That proved to be the deciding run when Smoak made his game-saving catch in the top of the ninth.
"We battled right to the end," Ross said. "Gosh I thought we were going to win that game."