SEATTLE – A ninth-inning rally by the Seattle Mariners fell short Friday as they lost to the Texas Rangers 3-2 at Safeco Field.
With the bases loaded, outfielder Michael Saunders reached base on a Michael Young error, which scored Kyle Seager. Third-base coach Jeff Datz held Justin Smoak at third while Saunders was caught between first and second base and was tagged out in a rundown.
Smoak later scored on a wild pitch from closer Joe Nathan with pinch-hitter Carlos Peguero at the plate. Peguero walked to put runners at the corners for Dustin Ackley, who struck out to end the game.
Seattle starter Kevin Millwood fell to 3-7 in his first start since June 27 when he experienced discomfort in his right groin against the Oakland Athletics. He allowed three runs on eight hits in 62/3 innings, including a two-run shot to third baseman Adrian Beltre in the sixth.
With outfielder Josh Hamilton on first, the former Mariner blasted his 16th home run into the upper-deck seats in left field.
Millwood coasted his first time through the Rangers’ lineup. Second baseman Ian Kinsler led the game off with a single just outside the reach of first baseman Smoak’s glove, but Millwood retired nine straight batters after the hit.
Millwood picked up outs in a variety of ways. He collected three of his four strikeouts in the game during the stretch and even made a nice play with his glove, robbing first baseman Young of a base hit up the middle in the second inning.
Smoak had a great opportunity to kick off the second half of the season on a good note with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning.
Texas starter Derek Holland allowed a single to Casper Wells and two walks to Jesus Montero and Seager to load the bases for Smoak.
After a visit from pitching coach Mike Maddux, Holland got Smoak to pop out to shortstop Elvis Andrus on the 10th pitch of the at-bat. Smoak threw his bat toward his dugout in disgust as he trotted out of the batter’s box. Miguel Olivo lined out to right field to end the inning.
Holland allowed four hits in six innings and struck out four in 72/3 innings to collect his sixth win this season. It was Holland’s second start since he was put on the disabled list on June 7 with left shoulder fatigue.
Millwood is 1-1 against the Rangers this season. He had held the Rangers to one earned run or less in four straight starts.
Zunino lends a hand
Three hours before his professional debut was scheduled to begin Friday, Mike Zunino learned all about life in the minor leagues.
Minutes before batting practice was scheduled to begin, a thunderstorm ripped through Everett Memorial Stadium. The grounds crew did its best, but the rain came down so hard the tarp became stuck halfway across the infield.
In jumped Zunino – who recently signed for a reported $4 million after being selected by the Mariners with the third overall pick in the 2012 draft – to lend a hand.
Zunino, along with fellow catchers Marcus Littlewood and David Villasuso, provided some much-needed muscle and the tarp covered the field just in time for the rain to stop. More downpours came later, and after a 90-minute delay the game between the Everett AquaSox and the Tri-City Dust Devils was postponed.
Zunino is now scheduled to make his debut in a doubleheader in Everett beginning tonight at 5:05.
For Zunino, a highly decorated catcher from the University of Florida, pushing the tarp was just a part of being on a team.
For manager Rob Mummau, it was typical of Zunino.
“Oh no, I didn’t know he did that,” Mummau said. “But that’s just like him. That’s the kind of guy he is.”
Like all of Everett’s players in the short-season Northwest League, Zunino is staying with a host family and driving a borrowed car. Zunino said he is just another baseball player chasing a dream to play in the major leagues.
“I like to think of myself as an extremely hard worker and I try to push everybody around me,” Zunino said. “I like to stay loose at the same time, though. I’m here for the same reason as everyone else – to get better, win ballgames and have fun.”