This was ordinary heartbreak in the Seattle Mariners’ playbook. A mere walk-off loss by a club that has perfected the art over the years. Routine stuff.
The deciding factor Monday night was an inability to handle bunts, which fueled Texas’ winning rally in the ninth inning, along with a lack of command from former All-Star closer Fernando Rodney.
It was a potent combination.
The end came when Adrian Beltre, the former Mariner, drew a five-pitch walk with the bases loaded from Rodney.
Rangers 4, Mariners 3.
“It’s a good thing I didn’t swing the bat,” deadpanned Beltre, who had a pair of RBI doubles earlier in the game. “I don’t know what they would have done to me.”
It was the Mariners’ ninth walk-off loss of the season, which leads all American League teams and is tied with Cincinnati for the most in the majors. It is their 64th walk-off loss since the start of the 2010 season.
That’s easily the most in either league.
“I say this all the time,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It’s never one thing that causes you to lose a game. We had opportunities to drive in runs and we didn’t get it done.
“We had some plays we should have made it early that we didn’t make. They threw us out on the tag play, they threw us out on a bunt play, I mean, we just didn’t play well tonight.”
But the ninth inning was a fitting climax.
Ryan Strausborger led off with a bunt single that got past Rodney.
“When he came to home plate,” Rodney said, “I saw (he might bunt). I decided to throw the first ball up. But on the second one, I didn’t check, and it was low. I tried to get a strike. It was a very good bunt.
“The only chance I had was to try to flip it. That’s what I tried to do.”
Delino DeShields then put down a sacrifice bunt, which Gold Glove third baseman Kyle Seager fielded and looked briefly at second before throwing to first.
DeShields beat the throw. The Rangers had runners at first and second with no outs. The Mariners challenged, but the replays were inconclusive, so the call stood after a delay of 3 minutes, 30 seconds.
“He was getting down the line pretty well,” Seager said, “and I hesitated a little too much. If you have a play at second, that’s the priority out, but you have to make sure of one out there.”
When play resumed, Rodney (5-5) hit ex-Mariner Shin-Soo Choo with a first-pitch fastball. Bases loaded with no outs. Prince Fielder struck out, but Beltre walked on five pitches — and it was over.
“I think I made good pitches to try to get out of the inning,” Rodney said. “That’s baseball. Sometimes when you think it’s a good pitch, close to the strike zone, but they’re not (called) strikes.”
The Mariners had a chance in their ninth after Austin Jackson led off with a single up the middle against Texas closer Shawn Tolleson.
After Brad Miller struck out, Logan Morrison hit a soft grounder to short that moved Jackson to second. But Tolleson (5-2) ended the inning by retiring Mike Zunino on a grounder to first.
Right-hander Taijuan Walker gave up 10 hits in six innings but limited the damage to three runs. He handed off a tie game to just-recalled Edgar Olmos in the seventh.
“I felt like I didn’t have my best stuff today,” Walker said. “They got a lot of hits, infield hits and stuff. It was just a tough one.”
Texas lefty Cole Hamels, in his third start since arriving from Philadelphia, squandered leads of 2-0 and 3-2 before departing after seven innings.
It was 2-2 when Elvis Andrus led off the Texas sixth with a single. Rougned Odor followed with a bunt single when Walker failed to make a clean pick-up.
Chris Gimenez’s sacrifice bunt almost turned into a base-hit, but second baseman Robinson Cano made a nice catch at first on Walker’s low throw.
Texas got the go-ahead run on Strausborger’s sacrifice fly to center, but the Mariners answered against Hamels in the seventh after Mark Trumbo singled and Morrison walked.
After Miller replaced Trumbo as a pinch-runner at second, Zunino put down a sacrifice bunt that moved the runners to second and third.
Ketel Marte tied the game with a single that fell in front of Choo in right, but Seager’s fly to right resulted in an inning-ending double play when Choo threw out Morrison at the plate.
That didn’t set well with McClendon: “I saw (Choo) double pump, and I saw him shuffle” and still throw out Morrison.
Instead of taking the lead, the Mariners settled for being tied — which only set them up for another date with misery in the ninth.