ARLINGTON, Texas – At least the Seattle Mariners got a different perspective on Michael Pineda before the bullpen torched his night.
There were different versions of Pineda on the mound Tuesday night and the second one tied the Texas Rangers in knots over the final four innings he faced them. Unfortunately for Pineda, the Seattle bullpen couldn’t hold his three-run lead and wound up taking a 7-6 loss by allowing four runs.
Josh Hamilton electrified the crowd of 25,214 at Rangers Ballpark with a single in the bottom of the ninth off Aaron Laffey that scored Ian Kinsler from second with the winning run. Kinsler had drawn a leadoff walk in the ninth against Jeff Gray before Laffey came into the game and surrendered a perfect bunt single up the first-base line to Endy Chavez that moved Kinsler into scoring position.
“Three out of the last four runs that scored were on walks,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “That was the difference late in the ballgame.”
A two-run homer by Kinsler in the seventh inning off Josh Lueke after another leadoff walk had cut into a 6-3 Seattle lead. And then, after Nelson Cruz walked and managed to steal second on a pickoff move to first base by Gray, Yorvit Torrealba delivered the tying double to right-center.
Once again, the Mariners, losers of four of five on this trip, were forced to find the bright spots.
And Pineda certainly provided some with his midgame turnaround on a night that tied for the hottest played in Mariners history at 105 degrees.
“What I was impressed with was the way he was able to put up zeros after he struggled the first couple of innings,” Wedge said of Pineda, who had a nine-day rest between outings as the Mariners try to slow his innings count. “The fact of the matter is, we’re in August. These are the so-called Dog Days and in this type of heat, he was able to settle himself down and give us every chance to win the ballgame.”
Pineda didn’t start off looking like a guy who would retire 13 of the final 14 batters he faced. His rest looked evident the first two innings when he couldn’t hit his spots.
He’d squandered a 2-0 lead in a 32-pitch first inning by yielding a solo home run to Chavez and then a run-scoring double off the top of the wall by Michael Young. Then, after being handed a 3-2 lead in the second, he gave the run right back and only escaped the inning because of a leaping snare of a line drive by second baseman Dustin Ackley.
The Mariners knocked Rangers starter Alexi Ogando out of the game with three more runs in the third inning. The big blow was a two-run triple to the right-field corner by Adam Kennedy, who scored on Miguel Olivo’s sacrifice fly.
Ogando was pulled moments later after a Franklin Gutierrez double. The crowd was stunned, given how Ogando had entered the night with a 2.88 earned-run average and had held Seattle to just one run in two previous starts this year.
“A lot of it is location and when you get to see a guy a second time around as a starter, you have a little better idea when you’re facing him,” said Jack Wilson, who walked, singled and scored twice off Ogando, then added a double against the Rangers bullpen. “We were able to get on him early, which gave us a good start.”
But the same thing did not apply to Pineda, given how the Rangers had also seen him twice previously.
“I like hot weather,” Dominican native Pineda said. “Because my arm gets loose pretty fast.”
Once it did, Pineda notched his first strikeout of the game in the third inning. He would add a strikeout in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, allowing only two balls to be hit beyond the infield.
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