Smoak’s diving stop spoils Rangers’ comeback bid

Posted Saturday, Apr. 26, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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The first thought that Adrian Beltre had after he sent a liner toward right field in the ninth inning Friday is that he had just given the Texas Rangers the lead.

Elvis Andrus thought Beltre had just given the Rangers a two-run lead in an inning they entered trailing by three.

But Justin Smoak had another thought, and his prevailed on a chilly night at Safeco Field.

Smoak dived to rob Beltre of at least a two-run single, and then turned a game-ending double play to save a 6-5 victory for Seattle in a game they took in the eighth inning against reliever Neal Cotts.

“It was a little surreal when I hit it,” Beltre said. “I thought [Smoak] had no chance. I hit a ball down the line, a right-handed hitter that is normally a pull hitter, and somehow he reacted really fast and made a hell of a play and turned two.”

Smoak’s play ended the Rangers’ winning streak at three games, but the Rangers lost the game when Cotts faltered for the third time this season in the eighth inning.

The left-hander entered with a 3-2 lead but saw Robinson Cano single on the first pitch. Cotts then hit Corey Hart after getting ahead of the cleanup hitter, and saw Stefen Romero reach on a bunt when catcher J.P. Arencibia got in Beltre’s way as he attempted to make a play.

Smoak, who has struggled against lefties in his career, followed with a two-run double, and Kyle Seager delivered an RBI single before manager Ron Washington brought in Alexi Ogando.

Cotts (1-2) didn’t retire any of the five batters he faced, and four of them scored.

“I didn’t pitch very well, that’s my main thought,” said Cotts, who blew a 4-3 lead April 5 at Tampa Bay and surrendered the game-winning homer to David Ortiz on April 9 at Boston. “I didn’t get an out.”

The Rangers entered the ninth down 6-3. But they loaded the bases with one out against Fernando Rodney, who walked Michael Choice to force in one run and then walked Andrus to push in another and put the tying run at third.

That brought up Beltre, who lined a 1-1 pitch that Smoak snagged. Andrus was easily doubled off.

“I knew everybody was going to score,” Andrus said.

Beltre, playing his first game back after a 15-day stay on the disabled list, had the Rangers’ only RBI in a game that saw them score on two wild pitches and the two ninth-inning walks.

Arencibia broke an 0-for-19 slide with a double in the third and scored two batters later on a wild pitch by Roenis Elias, and he was batting in the sixth when Prince Fielder scored the go-ahead run on a ball to the backstop.

Robbie Ross allowed two runs on six hits in three innings, and he matched the club record by hitting three batters. But it was a nice rebound start for Ross, who allowed seven runs (four earned) Sunday in a 16-2 loss to Chicago.

His penchant for hitting batters, though, finally got him in the fifth, after a double play had erased an error on Beltre to start the inning. Ross, though, hit Abraham Almonte, and Willie Bloomquist followed with single.

Cano, who had grounded out in the third with runners at first and second and two outs, laced a double to left field over Choice’s head to score both runners and tie the game at 2-2.

But the Rangers went back in front moments later in the sixth. Fielder singled with one and went to third on a double by Alex Rios. After Donnie Murphy bounced out, Fielder came home on a wild pitch by Domonic Leone as Arencibia batted for a 3-2 lead.

Cotts, though, had another rough eighth inning, and the Rangers again couldn’t overcome it, thanks to a remarkable play by their first-round pick in 2008.

“It’s just tough to swallow,” Beltre said. “Everybody had a great at-bat trying to battle back. I was just looking for a pitch high over the plate so I could drive it to the outfield. I put a good swing on it, and Smoak made a hell of a play that saved the game. What else can you say?”

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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