Bullpen, lost chances spell defeat
Relievers rocky in seventh; lineup can't capitalize vs. M's
SEATTLE -- Rain fell from the Seattle sky on Sunday, and the Rangers and Mariners played the seventh inning while Safeco Field's retractable roof was closing above them.That's about the time it seemed to cave in on Texas. Four consecutive Seattle singles -- two allowed by Darren O'Day, the latter two and most costly yielded by C.J. Wilson -- in the seventh turned a tie game into a 5-3 Mariners win in front of a series-high crowd of 33,220, sending Texas to the All-Star break with just one win out of a four-game set with its division rival. And really, this just never felt like the Rangers' day, even when home runs in the sixth inning by Hank Blalock and Nelson Cruz turned a three-run Seattle lead into a tie game. The Texas bullpen cracked shortly thereafter. With two outs in the seventh, Ken Griffey Jr. hit a grounder that Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus fielded then threw wildly to first base. "I kind of rushed it a little bit," Andrus admitted. He pulled Blalock off the base, and Griffey was safe with a curiously ruled infield single. A good throw would have had him by at least a step. That allowed Franklin Gutierrez to follow with a base hit, then Chris Shelton -- pinch-hitting for the left-handed Ryan Langerhans -- lofted a single off the end of the bat into left field to score pinch-runner Josh Wilson. Mariners catcher Rob Johnson blooped a single just over the head of Andrus to tack on another run and make it 5-3. O'Day was charged with both runs in the seventh, taking his first loss of the season. This would have been a different game had the Rangers taken advantage of several scoring opportunities against Seattle starter Erik Bedard. "We had Bedard on the ropes every inning," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "Every one. He probably made pitches when he had to, but when you get a guy like that out there putting people on the bag, you want to try to take advantage of it. Partly it was him making pitches, and us not putting it in play properly." Apparently. Bedard walked Michael Young and Josh Hamilton to put runners on first and second with nobody out in the first inning. But Andruw Jones hit a line drive to center field that Gutierrez snagged. Young never looked back on his way around second heading toward third and Gutierrez lobbed the ball in to double him off easily at second to retire the side. Blalock and Marlon Byrd singled to start the second. But Cruz fanned, and catcher Taylor Teagarden hit into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. "He's got good stuff to start with," Young said of Bedard. "His fastball, curveball, using both sides of the plate with his heater. He was making pitches when he had to, and we couldn't find a way to have any kind of momentum or get any big innings going." And again in the fourth, Hamilton reached on an error and Jones walked to put runners on first and second with nobody out. But Blalock struck out, and Byrd and Cruz both grounded out to end the threat. Bedard lasted only 5 2/3 innings, but for all the runners he put on base, Texas had nothing to show for it except Blalock's home run. Cruz's drive was a first-pitch bomb off Miguel Batista, who earned the win by pitching 1 1/3 innings of relief. "[Bedard] didn't pitch as well as we'd liked today, but he battled," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "It didn't seem like he had the feel for his curveball. His stuff is electric and he pitched out of quite a few jams." In contrast, Seattle made Texas pay for putting guys on base, plating two runs in the fourth by way of a little luck. Gutierrez and Langerhans both singled with nobody out, but looked as if they'd be left o base when the next two guys recorded outs and Ronny Cedeno hit a comebacker to Dustin Nippert. But Nippert had trouble fielding it, and his throw to first base was too late to get a headlong-diving Cedeno. That loaded the bases before Ichiro Suzuki beat out an RBI infield single, and Russell Branyan walked to force in another run and make it 3-0. Nippert had a tough time getting into a rhythm, taking the loss in his second start back from the disabled list. He lasted 3 2/3 innings, giving up Seattle's first three runs on five hits while walking two. But if Texas had been able to get anything going against Bedard, it wouldn't have mattered. "We had Bedard in trouble all night," Washington said. "We just couldn't punch anything across, and finally in the sixth inning, we finally tied the ballgame up. Then it was, 'Who's going to make the mistake first?' And we made one, and they punched a couple of runs across the board." So Texas will head into the All Star Break 1 1/2 games in back of Los Angeles in the American League West standings, 2 1/2 ahead of Seattle for second place. Despite the way the first half ended, Washington will take it. "We've lost games before and bounced back, and we'll bounce back," he said. "Nobody feels good about coming up here and losing three out of four. We had a chance to even the score today. We didn't get it done. The four days we have are days that are on the schedule and there for a reason. I want them to enjoy it and come back Thursday, come back and get back to business."
Christian Caple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.