The game-winning hit late Sunday afternoon came on the 191st pitch by the Texas Rangers’ pitching staff, and it was good enough that more should have been thrown.
“It was a sinker down and in,” right-hander Ross Wolf said. “It was a good pitch. Just tough luck.”
But a bad pitch two innings earlier was the one that the Rangers were lamenting most after a 4-3 loss to Seattle, which needed 13 innings to avoid a three-game sweep to the American League’s best team.
Jason Bay won it with a broken-bat single with two outs in the 13th, but Raul Ibanez gave the Mariners fresh life by swatting the first pitch in the 11th inning from Joe Nathan for a game-tying homer moments after the Rangers had taken a 3-2 lead.
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Now the Rangers find themselves in a pitching predicament entering a split doubleheader Monday at Arizona. Their bullpen could be without three pitchers, including Nathan, for 18 innings at Chase Field.
“With the double-dip, we’re going to have a quick turnaround and a quick recovery,” Nathan said after blowing his first save of the season in his 17th attempt.
“I think all hands are going to be on board somehow. Hopefully, we get two nines out of our starters, but we can’t count on that.”
The onus will be on starters Martin Perez and Yu Darvish to carry the pitching workload against the Diamondbacks after the Rangers used seven of their eight relievers against Seattle.
Neal Cotts worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings and has been ruled out by manager Ron Washington. Tanner Scheppers and Nathan could also be held out after working all three games this weekend.
Three pitchers worked after Nathan saw Ibanez take him deep. Nathan was trying to throw a sinker down and away, but left it up and in.
“I put it right into his happy zone,” Nathan said. “That spot is the one spot you’ve got to stay away from, especially with him.”
The Rangers were living on the brink in most of the later innings.
They went quietly in their half of the 12th before Jason Frasor walked Jesus Sucre and allowed a bunt hit to Brendan Ryan with one out in the 12th. Michael Kirkman entered to face Endy Chavez and Kyle Seager in a matchup of lefties, getting Chavez to ground into a fielder’s choice before Seager grounded out to first.
The Mariners pulled an escape act of their own in the 13th, as Yoervis Medina stranded the go-ahead run at third base by striking out Jurickson Profar and getting David Murphy to ground out to second base.
Ibanez flied out to start the 13th, but Kendrys Morales laced a one-out double to right-center to chase Kirkman (0-1) and bring in Wolf to match up with Carlos Triunfel and Bay, both right-handed hitters.
Wolf got Triunfel on a tapper back to the mound, but Bay sent a broken-bat floater over shortstop Elvis Andrus on the first pitch he saw to end the game.
“It shattered his bat into a hundred pieces,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.
The Rangers had taken a one-run lead in the 11th on a pinch-hit single by Pierzynski to score Andrus. Mariners pitchers had retired 11 straight batters before Andrus opened the inning with a broken-bat pinch-hit single off Carter Capps and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Leonys Martin.
But Ibanez extended the game, and Seattle just missed winning it three batters later when Bay lifted a deep fly ball to left-center field that David Murphy jumped to catch at the top of the wall.
The Rangers held a 2-0 lead until the sixth. Profar started the game with a homer off Hisashi Iwakuma, and Martin had a sacrifice fly in the second.
Nick Tepesch took a shutout into the sixth, but allowed a game-tying two-run homer to Morales to forge a 2-2 tie.
“I felt like I commanded all my pitches,” said Tepesch, who was making his first start since May 17 because of a blister. “I just made a bad pitch to Morales.”
The Rangers would end up logging 105 more pitches in their longest game of the season, and it has put them in a tough spot with two games Monday.
“No doubt about it, but you can’t control the way a baseball game goes,” Washington said. “We’ll figure it out tomorrow. Hopefully, Perez and Darvish can give us nine innings in each game, and everything works out well.”