Neal Cotts went into Friday’s game with the lowest ERA among American League relievers. He no longer holds that distinction and stood at his locker after the game lamenting his eighth inning.
Cotts gave up two runs in the eighth inning, tying the most he’s allowed this season, and seven shutout innings by Derek Holland went away as the Seattle Mariners rallied for a 3-1 victory over the Rangers.
It’s just the third time in 61 games that the Rangers have lost when holding a lead after seven innings, and Cotts is a big reason why that record is so lopsided.
Everybody in the Rangers’ dugout felt good about their chances with a 1-0 lead and Cotts coming in for the eighth to get the ball presumably to closer Joe Nathan.
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“No doubt about it,” manager Ron Washington said.
Cotts struck out Brad Miller to start the inning, but then issued a six-pitch walk to Nick Franklin after getting ahead 0-2. That brought up Seager, who fouled an 0-2 cutter down the left-field line that was just out of the reach of a charging David Murphy.
Seager then roped the next pitch narrowly over the right-field fence, and Alex Rios didn’t have a chance to rob it. Seager snapped an 0-for-21 slump with his 18th homer, which put the Mariners up 2-1.
“If Seager was going to beat us, we wanted him to beat us the other way,” Cotts said. “I left the pitch over the middle of the plate. ... I didn’t want him to do what he did, put it that way.”
The last time Cotts allowed two runs in an outing was on July 4 against Seattle, on a night when left-hander Raul Ibanez also took him deep for a two-run shot. Seager and Ibanez are the only two left-handed batters to homer against Cotts this season.
“I don’t know,” Cotts said of his struggles against Seattle. “I just need to make better pitches against them.”
The Rangers had a chance to bail him out in their half of the eighth.
Pinch hitter Craig Gentry drew a four-pitch walk against lefty Oliver Perez, and Leonys Martin reached on a hit by pitch. Elvis Andrus moved the runners to second and third by laying down a sacrifice bunt with two strikes.
But Ian Kinsler went down swinging against Mariners righty Yoervis Medina and, after Adrian Beltre drew an intentional walk, Pierzynski popped out to third against lefty Charlie Furbush.
Seattle extended its lead to 3-1 on a solo homer by Justin Smoak in the ninth, and Danny Farquhar retired the Rangers in order for his sixth save.
“We were in a position to win,” Andrus said. “It didn’t happen. That’s the way it is. Either you win or you lose.”
Holland outpitched Mariners ace Hisashi Iwakuma over the first seven innings of a pitchers’ duel. Holland didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning.
His biggest jam came in the third when he issued a leadoff walk to Justin Smoak. Holland struck out Dustin Ackley and appeared to get Humberto Quintero on a fielder’s choice grounder. But Kinsler came off the bag before he caught Andrus’ flip, and the error by Kinsler put runners at first and second with one out.
A passed ball by Pierzynski on the next pitch allowed the runners to advance to second and third, but Holland got out of it by getting Miller to fly out to shallow right and Franklin to strike out.
Holland didn’t allow a runner to reach third after that, and felt the one-run would be enough to win it. Especially with Cotts coming in.
“I’m not going to worry about that,” Holland said. “It’s one of those things, it just got away from him. No big deal. Tomorrow, he’ll be ready to go and I know he’ll shut them down.”