ARLINGTON, Texas – Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan knows it’s a play he will never forget, even though he was denied an inside-the-park home run.
Once his liner to right-center bounced over the glove of diving center fielder Craig Gentry and rolled to the wall in the eighth inning Monday night, Ryan was running full speed with thoughts of scoring. But he never touched the plate in Seattle’s 4-2 loss to the Texas Rangers.
Right fielder Nelson Cruz tracked the ball down and threw to second baseman Ian Kinsler, who made a perfect relay to the plate, which was blocked by catcher Mike Napoli.
“It was close. I never had the opportunity before. Loss aside and all that, it would have been pretty sweet. Kind of a baseball bucket list thing. But, oh well,” Ryan said.
“As soon as he dives and misses it, boom, it’s on. I’m trying to cut every corner as hard as I can. I think around second there I tried to get too much angle and lost myself for half a step. I think that cost me.”
That and the tremendous effort by Cruz and Napoli, who also both homered to account for all the Texas runs.
Michael Saunders, who led off the eighth with a single, scored easily on Ryan’s triple. Mariners third base coach Jeff Datz was waving Ryan around all the way.
“I thought he was going to make it and obviously that’s why I sent him. To their credit, they made one heck of a relay,” Datz said.
“Cruz threw it on the money to Kinsler, and Kinsler threw a seed to the plate, and Napoli blocked him off. … It’s frustrating. I feel bad for our guys. With the situation the way it was, I felt pretty good he was going to score.”
Kevin Millwood, the Mariners’ 37-year-old right-hander, had another solid night with five strikeouts while allowing only one run. But he was done after throwing 97 pitches on a warm night in Texas, his home park from 2006-09.
“I wasn’t locating very good and they weren’t swinging at many bad pitches. Those two combined made for me throwing a lot of pitches,” Millwood said. “They’re a lot more patient than they’d been the two previous times I pitched against them.
“I think if I was locating the ball it would have worked to my advantage, but I wasn’t. It made it that much tougher. You can’t give in and just start throwing the ball down the middle.”
Millwood has allowed only two earned runs over 27 innings (0.67 ERA) in his last four starts. He matched his career-high streak of consecutive scoreless innings at 18 after getting through the first, but Cruz ended that an inning later with his one-out homer to right.
“He really had to work for it and they made him work for it,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “With the heat and how hard he worked, we weren’t going to push him another inning. He’s been pitching really well and you don’t want one inning to affect his next start or next couple of starts.”
Rangers starter Matt Harrison (6-3) struck out five and allowed two runs, less than a week after holding Seattle to one run over seven innings. Joe Nathan worked the ninth for his 11th save in 12 chances.
Cruz homered in the second off Millwood to tie the game at 1. Napoli went deep for the second game in a row, a tiebreaking, three-run shot in the sixth off Steve Delabar (1-1).
The Rangers (31-18) have the best record in the American League, but only one winning streak longer than four in a row — an eight-gamer in April. Seattle lost its fifth in a row.
After Delabar replaced Millwood, the reliever walked Adrian Beltre and gave up a single to David Murphy before striking out Cruz. With Rangers fans chanting “Nap-o-li!, Nap-o-li!,” the catcher hit a 401-foot homer that ricocheted off the facade of the second deck of seats in right field for a 4-1 lead.
Seattle led 1-0 in the first after an RBI single by Jesus Montero.
Cruz also got an outfield assist in the fifth after Kinsler misplayed Alex Liddi’s popup in short right. Cruz picked up the ball and fired to first baseman Mitch Moreland to catch Liddi off base, and the runner was tagged out in a rundown.
Mariners LF Chone Figgins snapped a 0-for-24 slide with a first-inning double, his first hit since April 29. … Rangers RHP Scott Feldman (0-2) gets another start today, his second in a row against the Mariners since Neftali Feliz went on the disabled list. Feldman gave up a grand slam and lost at Seattle last Wednesday. … Mariners lefty Jason Vargas (5-4, 3.39 ERA) starts today. … Rangers manager Ron Washington said RHP Yu Darvish was getting treatment for back stiffness, but is fine.