ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers are seeing their lead in the American League West slip away.
Justin Smoak homered in the eighth inning and drove in a run in the ninth for Seattle to beat Texas, 8-6, on Saturday night.
Texas lead in the division slipped to two games over Oakland, which beat Baltimore, 5-2. It’s as close as anyone has been to the Rangers since April 13 when Texas also led the division by two games.
The Rangers will play their final 17 games against AL West teams, including six against the Angels and seven against the A’s.
Texas trailed 6-0 early before tying the game in the sixth inning.
“We fell behind early, and we fought and got back in it,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “But we just couldn’t stop them.”
Smoak had three hits, two runs and three RBI, helping Seattle build a 6-0 lead in the first three innings while sending Texas starter Scott Feldman to the bench after just 22/3 innings. Feldman, who had lost his last five starts going into the game, threw 71 pitches.
Dustin Ackley homered to lead off the third, and Michael Saunders had a two-run triple. Saunders also had an RBI single in the first. Smoak scored Saunders with a single, and Eric Thames plated Smoak to make it 6-0.
“They did hit some good pitches,” Feldman said. “There were some pitches I threw where I wanted to and they hit them and others that got a little too much plate.”
Martin Perez kept the Rangers in the game in relief of Feldman. He retired 13 of the 15 batters he faced, only allowing a walk and hitting a batter. He struck out five and became the first Texas reliever with over 4 innings pitched to allow no hits and no runs since Mark Brandenburg did the same in 42/3 innings against Seattle on July 6, 1996.
“I thought he was great,” Washington said. “The kid came in and kept the ball down in the zone and had a good change up and was aggressive. He threw the ball extremely well.”
Texas got on the board in the third after Seattle starter Jason Vargas walked the bases loaded. Nelson Cruz’s sacrifice fly scored a run for the Rangers to make it 6-1, but Vargas struck out Michael Young to end the inning.
In the sixth, catcher Mike Napoli, in his first start after a stint on the 15-day disabled list because of a left quadriceps strain, hit a three-run home run to bring the Rangers within two, 6-4.
Napoli made his last rehab start at DH on Friday night for Double A Frisco by going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Going into Saturday’s game against the Mariners, Napoli joked that he told his Rangers teammates that he got those out of the way and “left the strikeouts down there.”
Cruz had an RBI single in the sixth and David Murphy a run-scoring ground out to tie it.
“This team never quits,” Feldman said. “We kind of take it for granted sometimes what a competitive team we have and what a good team we have. They fought their way back and almost pulled it off in the end.”
With the game tied 6-6 in the eighth, Tanner Scheppers relieved Perez, and Smoak led off the inning with his 15th homer. He then had an RBI single in the ninth that scored John Jaso. Scheppers (1-1) took the loss, and after the game, Washington said he pulled Perez because he, “just felt like (Perez) was finished.”