ARLINGTON, Texas — Left-hander Neal Cotts has made quite a comeback with the Texas Rangers after not pitching professionally in nearly four years.
So it was quite a surprise when Cotts left a pitch right over the plate against fellow lefty Kyle Seager, who pulled a two-run home to right-center to snap a career-worst 0-for-21 slump and put the Seattle Mariners ahead in their 3-1 victory Friday night.
"I need to concentrate a little bit more and make a better pitch 0-2," Cotts said. "If he's going to beat us, try to get him to beat us the other way."
Cotts (4-2), whose 0.93 ERA was the lowest among American League relievers, took over after Derek Holland pitched two-hit ball with six strikeouts over seven scoreless innings. After striking out leadoff hitter Brad Miller, Cotts walked Nick Franklin before Seager connected.
"Well, (Holland) did a great job. I mean we only put one run on the board, and he made it stand up," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "And we got into the eighth inning there and we had the guy we wanted in there."
Cotts, who had allowed only one earned run his previous 15 appearances, started this season at Triple-A after going to spring training with the Rangers on a minor league contract. Before that, the reliever who appeared in all four World Series games for the Chicago White Sox in 2005 hadn't pitched in the majors since July 2009 after ligament replacement surgery.
Justin Smoak added a homer in the ninth for Seattle.
Hisashi Iwakuma (11-6) struck out eight and allowed one run in seven innings.
Texas had the bases loaded in the eighth when A.J. Pierzynski, whose RBI single in the fourth produced the only Texas run, had an inning-ending popout to third baseman Seager.
After Mariners reliever Oliver Perez walked and hit a batter to start the eighth, the only batters he faced, Elvis Andrus had a sacrifice bunt before Ian Kinsler struck out against Yoervis Medina. Adrian Beltre, already with two hits and hitting .452 over a 16-game span, was intentionally walked before Charlie Furbush came on to retire Pierzynski.
Danny Farquhar struck out two in a perfect ninth for his sixth save in nine chances.
Washington twice went out to argue calls by Angel Hernandez, an umpire he publicly criticized in the past. Both calls were for players coming off second base – one defensively, the other a Texas base runner.
In the Seattle third, Rangers second baseman Kinsler was taking a throw for a force out when he shuffled his feet while trying to get out of the way of an oncoming runner. Hernandez immediately motioned that Kinsler came off the base before making the catch, and replays showed that to be the case.
An inning later, on his RBI single to left-center, Pierzynski was called out at second after sliding in ahead of the tag by Franklin before briefly coming off the base. It didn't appear on replays that Pierzynski was being tagged when he came off before reaching out with his hand to get back on the base. Hernandez, behind the tangled bodies, called the runner out, bringing Washington out again as Pierzynski was flat on back screaming in disgust.
"He overslid the bag, and you got the benefit of a replay," Washington said diplomatically.
Two years ago, after Washington and first base coach Gary Pettis got ejected by Hernandez on a disputed balk call, the Rangers manager said, "Angel is bad. That's all there is to it."
Even before his reunions with Hernandez, Washington had gone out to talk with umpire Doug Eddings about an inning-ending play in the first when Andrus tried to score from first on Beltre's single to right. Andrus dived head-first, but was initially blocked from reaching the plate while catcher Humberto Quintero made a sweeping tag. It was unclear on replays if he actually tagged Andrus, or if the runner ever did touch the plate.
"We just didn't win," Pierzynski said. "There's no excuses. There's no reasons. There's no nothing. I mean it just didn't happen."
NOTES: When Andrus tried to reach on a bunt leading off the sixth, Quintero bounced up to field the ball and then made a strong throw even while one of his cleats came off his feet. ... Rangers ace Yu Darvish (12-5), the major league strikeout leader with 207, turned 27 on Friday. He starts the series finale Sunday. ... When Jurickson Profar struck out to end the second, he contended that the ball bounced in the dirt after he fouled it off. Eddings got the ball back from Quintero, who was already going back to the dugout, and confirmed the strikeout. He showed the ball to Profar. Replays, though, showed it might have bounced into the catcher's mitt.