For four innings, Martin Perez continued his recent spate of dominance, allowing just a first-inning leadoff single to Jean Segura and two walks–one in each of the third and fourth innings. When he walked to the mound in the top of the fifth inning, he had thrown fifty nine pitches, thirty six of them for strikes, and his changeup was serving as the syncopated pause-step to his fastball. He had struck out one in each of the innings. Most importantly, the Seattle Mariners had not scored a run. Yet.
Unfortunately, that’s about all the good news there is to report from Globe Life Park tonight.
Unless you’re a Mariners fan. In which case, have I ever got a couple of paragraphs for you. Perhaps you’re elated at the finally-putting-it-together Mike Zunino, who opened the scoring tonight in the fifth inning with a 470-foot home run into the upper deck in left field; the 4th such ball hit this season, and only the 23rd in the history of the ballpark. I suspect you were even happier when later that inning–after a Guillermo Heredia single–Segura tattooed another baseball into the left field seats, even though his only reached the regular first-tier seats.
Furthermore, you’re probably pretty excited that Mike Leake–who entered the game with a 9-12 record–was matching zeroes with Perez through the fourth inning, then continued to do so for another inning and two-thirds. Since the All-Star break, opposing hitters had been hitting .433 against Leake with runners in scoring position. Tonight, they hit .125, the only hit/RBI coming from Robinson Chirinos in the sixth inning with two on and the score still just 3-0, er, 3-1 now.
And it was here that the night’s most interesting moment occurred. With Chirinos on first base and Nomar Mazara on second, Willie Calhoun (who bats left-handed) was due to hit with a chance to put Texas in the lead with one swing. Scott Servais went to his bullpen and called on left-hander James Pazos.
Jeff Banister countered.
As Pazos took his warm-ups, the crowd slowly but surely began to buzz. Even in the press box, the information spread quickly, first in subtle points, then in whispers, then in full-voiced “oh wow”s. Adrian Beltre–just two weeks after an injury that was expected to cost him four–was standing in the very on-deck circle that he had once made so famous.
As the TV stations came back from commercial, Chuck Morgan announced Beltre, and the 23,083 in attendance went from buzzing to standing, cheering the legendary third baseman as he strode to the plate.
"I told (Banister) that I was ready for a situation like that," Beltre would say after the game "and I was able to prepare myself for that."
This is how I would have written the next few minutes of the game: A called strike, then a ball. Eventually a full count, and four or five foul balls, just to heighten the tension. Then on the tenth or eleventh pitch, Beltre would have swung with all his might, and the contact, the half-blink of ensuing shocked silence, and the all-at-once roar of the crowd would all three have been deafening as Beltre Kirk Gibson’d his way around the bases, leading his team to a win that sparked a streak that sparked a playoff run. Just so you know, predictably sappy or not, that’s how I would have written it.
And for one pitch, the real world got it just right, as Beltre watched strike one sail through the top of the strike zone.
But then the movie reel caught fire, those weird burning movie bubbles started popping up on the screen, the theater lights came on, and Beltre flied out to center field. The inning was over. There was no teenage employee to offer anyone a refund.
To make matters worse, the Mariners scored five more runs in the seventh inning, and not off the bottom-tier bullpen guys, either. Banister threw everything he had at the Mariners, all to no avail. Matt Bush faced two batters and retired zero of them. Jake Diekman allowed his first runs of the season, including yet another Zunino home run to bring the score to the final of 8-1. With the loss, the Rangers fall behind the Mariners in the Wild Card hunt, and with the Twins 3-1 victory over the Padres, Texas is now four games out of the second Wild Card spot with just 17 games left to play.
We have exclusive video of Beltre's postgame quotes in the video below.