ARLINGTON – Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz did it again. This time, with a strikeout.
Cruz, who has four walk-off hits this season, struck out with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 5-5 tie game against Seattle at Rangers Ballpark Wednesday afternoon, but Dan Cortes’ strikeout pitch skipped past Mariners catcher Guillermo Quiroz.
Quiroz then tried to throw down to first to record the out, but the ball sailed into right field. Mitch Moreland, who was on first after walking, went all the way around the bases to score the winning run, and Texas avoided a sweep at home. Cruz entered the game as a pinch hitter.
Seattle first baseman Justin Smoak started the game by continuing his power hitting against the Rangers.
Smoak – who homered in Seattle’s Monday and Tuesday against the Rangers – launched a two-run shot in the first innings off Texas starter Rich Harden to put Seattle up 2-0. But the Rangers were able to come back to win 6-5 thanks to shaky pitching from Seattle and Quiroz’s throwing error. Neftali Feliz (4-3), who pitched the top of the ninth for Texas, picked up the win.
The Mariners had increased their early lead to 5-2, but Texas tied the game in the eighth inning. After Seattle pitcher Jamey Wright gave up two straight hits, Cortez replaced him. Cortes then walked Matt Treanor to load the bases and walked Andres Blanco, which gave Texas its first run of the rally.
Julio borbon followed with a single that scored Esteban German to make the score 5-4 Seattle, and Treanor tied the game at five by scoring on a wild pitch from Cortes.
Texas starter Harden (5-5) lasted only four innings, giving up four earned runs on six hits.
Derek Holland replaced Harden and pitched three innings. Holland gave up a run and loaded the bases in the sixth, but he struck out two and forced a ground out to get out of the inning. He finished the game with five strikeouts.
Texas also had to shuffle its defensive lineup during the game. Starting left fielder David Murphy strained his groin on the base path during the second inning. Jeff Francoeur moved from right to left, his first appearance there in his career, and Mitch Moreland came off the bench to play the rest of the game in right field.
Pitcher Mark Lowe made his Rangers debut in the game, throwing a scoreless eighth inning. Lowe, who came to Texas from Seattle along with Cliff Lee in July, had been on the 60-day disabled list after undergoing back surgery. He gave up a hit and struck out two Wednesday.
Seattle pitcher Jason Vargas (9-12) was in line for the win until the Mariners’ bullpen gave up the lead. Vargas gave up one run on five hits in six innings.
With the win, Texas (88-70) is still in the hunt to win 92 games, team president Nolan Ryan's predicted win total. Seattle fell to 61-97.
- Brent Shirley