The night was supposed to be about Colby Lewis making his return to the big leagues after a 21-month journey back from elbow and hip surgery.
He did his best to make it about that by opening with four scoreless innings and exiting with the Texas Rangers down 3-0 with one out in the sixth inning.
A comeback seemed possible at that point, but not for long. Errors, misplays and the confusing new transfer rule became the focal point for the Rangers, and not in a good way.
The Mariners took full advantage of the Rangers’ mini-meltdown in the sixth inning, scoring six runs and rolling to a 7-1 victory on Monday night at Globe Life Park.
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The biggest play that inning happened when Rangers catcher J.P. Arencibia bobbled the ball on a transfer during what could have been an inning-ending double play, but turned into an error on Arencibia. Arencibia and manager Ron Washington were both critical of the new rule, which has gone against the Rangers twice this season.
“I think it’s jeopardizing the game,” Arencibia said. “It’s giving guys extra outs when the game’s been played the same way for how ever many years. It’s ridiculous what’s going on.”
Said Washington: “We’ve got to do something about it. I understand what the rule is saying, I just don’t agree with it.”
The transfer play simply opened the floodgates to what had already been a bad inning for the Rangers.
Lewis exited after giving up consecutive RBI hits to Michael Saunders and Kyle Seager with one out, but the Rangers were within striking distance down 3-0.
But third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff misplayed a sharp grounder by Justin Smoak. Dustin Ackley followed with a single to score Seager, and Smoak moved to third once Rangers right fielder Alex Rios bobbled the ball.
Ackley had popped up the previous pitch in foul territory that fell just beyond the outstretched reach of Arencibia.
Mariners No. 9 batter Mike Zunino then came through with an RBI single, and Abraham Almonte reached on an infield single to load the bases. And things kept unraveling with the transfer play.
Brad Miller bounced a grounder back to Rangers lefty Pedro Figueroa and he threw home for the force-out. Arencibia caught the ball cleanly and had a chance at an inning-ending double play before losing control of it.
The runner at the plate was ruled out initially, but Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon challenged the play. After a 3-minute, 30-second review, the call was overturned and the runner was ruled safe. Washington stormed out of the dugout to argue and was immediately ejected.
The Rangers had a similar scenario happen during the April 7 game in Boston when Elvis Andrus dropped a ball on a transfer during a potential double play in the first inning and the runner was ruled safe.
MLB issued a clarification on the new rule after that, stating: “An example of a catch that would not count is if a fielder loses possession of the ball during the transfer before the ball was secured by his throwing hand.”
The ruling led to another run for the Mariners on a sacrifice fly by Robinson Cano, leaving the Rangers in a 7-0 hole. But that play and the loss didn’t diminish what the night meant for Lewis, who made his first start since July 18, 2012.
“First of all, I’d like to thank the Texas Rangers for giving me the opportunity tonight,” Lewis said. “It wouldn’t have meant as much for me to get back out there without having this uniform on.”
Lewis had a long road back that included surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow in July 2012 and hip resurfacing surgery last August. Lewis is the first MLB player to return from the hip procedure and showed signs of his old self early on.
He had a 1-2-3, 10-pitch first inning and kept it a 0-0 game through four innings. But Zunino scored the game’s first run by taking Lewis deep to center field with one out in the fifth, which also snapped a 21-inning scoreless streak for Seattle.
Texas, meanwhile, is in its own offensive funk. It’s been held to one run in five of 13 games and missed chances early on by bouncing into three double plays against Mariners lefty Roenis Elias.
The Rangers avoided a shutout in the seventh inning when Prince Fielder reached on a popup double down the left-field line and scored on a single by Kouzmanoff.
The Rangers finished the night 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position and are 4 for 46 (.087) with RISP the last five games.
Asked if the team is frustrated offensively, Andrus said: “It’s too early and I don’t like that word. We have to keep our heads up and keep playing. We know that everything is going to get to a point where we start hitting again, so we have to keep fighting.”