ARLINGTON, Texas – It was a few days ago that Mariners manager Scott Servais declared it was time to start a postseason push by, in part, not being as cautious in using rookie closer Edwin Diaz.
Tuesday saw Servais put his words into action by calling on Diaz to get a six-out save and protect a one-run lead in a roller-coaster ride against Texas at Globe Life Park.
Diaz couldn’t deliver.
Rougned Odor’s two-run homer in the ninth inning lifted the Rangers to an 8-7 victory over the Mariners and marked the first blown save in Diaz’s career.
“I missed the last pitch,” Diaz said. “It leaked back over the middle. When he hit the ball, I was thinking, ‘That’s a homer.’ I looked at Leonys (Martin) and he was running, and he kept running.
“I started walking toward the dugout. I knew that was a homer.”
That’s not all.
Mariners starter James Paxton exited after five innings because of a familiar malady: a torn fingernail on his middle finger. He will undergo treatment Wednesday and still hopes to make his next scheduled start.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “We’re going to try to find a solution so that it doesn’t happen any more. We’re hoping the fake nail will help it for the rest of the season. Tack that down and make it so it doesn’t lift up on me.”
Bottom line: This was a crushing loss for the Mariners, who erased a four-run deficit against Texas ace Cole Hamels, who lasted just 4 1/3 innings.
And after the Rangers pulled even by scoring twice in the seventh inning against three relievers, the Mariners answered with one run in the eighth inning on Robinson Cano’s sacrifice fly.
Then they asked Diaz (0-3) to carry them home.
“Diaz has been phenomenal,” third baseman Kyle Seager said. “If anyone deserves a hiccup, it’s him.”
True enough, but the Mariners can’t afford hiccups. They’ve now lost seven of eight while falling four games behind Baltimore in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth with 30 games remaining.
“We’re going for it,” Servais said. “Where we’re at in the season, we’re in a tough stretch and playing really good teams. … I certainly wanted to have our best guy, our hottest guy, on the mound there at the end.
“We did. It just didn’t work out.”
Diaz got two quick outs in the eighth inning before losing the strike zone after jumping ahead 0-2 on Jurickson Profar. Two walks on eight pitches put the tying and go-ahead runs on base.
Diaz escaped by striking out Carlos Beltran on a full-count slider, but it took 24 pitches to complete the inning.
“It’s hard to get six outs for a save,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “It’s extremely difficult. Our guys making him work … and have him go back out there after that inning, (he was) probably not as sharp as he was.”
Adrian Beltre start the Texas ninth inning with a line single to left before Odor drove a 2-2 pitch over the center-field wall.
“With Beltre,” Diaz said, “that was a high fastball. I didn’t think he’d reach that fastball. I was surprised. He moved a little bit up on the plate, and I thought he was looking for a slider.
“I went to my fastball up, and he reached it pretty good. I don’t know how, but he reached it pretty good. He hit it pretty hard.”
Paxton gave up two runs in the second and two more in the third, which is when his nail tore, before steadying with two scoreless innings before handing a 6-4 lead to the bullpen.
“The fingernail started to lift up again,” he said. “The same as last year but not as bad. It was painful throwing pitches. It hurt the most on cutters and change-ups. That’s why, after that, we just went to fastballs and curveballs.”
Nick Vincent pitched a scoreless sixth inning, but Steve Cishek ran into trouble in the seventh after Ian Desmond’s leadoff single.
Third baseman Kyle Seager grabbed Beltran’s pop but made a wild throw to first in trying to double off Desmond at first. The ball went out of play, which resulted in a two-base error that moved Desmond to third.
Beltre’s sinking liner to center turned into an RBI single and prompted the Mariners to replace Cishek with Vidal Nuno.
Odor lined a single to right that moved Beltre to third but tried for second and was thrown out easily by Shawn O’Malley.
Rookie Dan Altavilla replaced Nuno and surrendered a game-tying single to Jonathan Lucroy on a 0-2 slider.
The Mariners regained the lead in the eighth but missed the chance for a big inning against reliever Matt Bush (6-2) after Mike Zunino walked and Seth Smith delivered a pinch single.
O’Malley’s attempted sacrifice turned into a force at third before Ketel Marte’s bloop single loaded the bases with one out for Cano, who delivered a sacrifice fly to center.
The Mariners left runners at second and third when Adam Lind grounded back to the mound.
One run wasn’t enough.
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