The thinking behind the decision was right. The execution was fine.
And the result?
It cemented the Seattle Mariners’ 8-3 loss to the Texas Rangers on Monday night at Safeco Field.
With the Mariners trailing, 4-3, in the seventh inning, Seattle pitcher Joe Saunders intentionally walked Adrian Beltre with two outs and a runner on second.
“It’s the right thing to do there,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “If you have a chance to pitch around Beltre, you are going to do it. If he’s not the hottest hitter in baseball, then he’s one of the hottest hitters, especially over the last couple months.”
Beltre entered the game batting
.327 with 27 homers, 79 RBI and 165 hits (second most in the American League). In his previous 10 games against Seattle, he was hitting .425 (10-for-17) with three doubles and three homers.
The Mariners intentionally walked Beltre in the first inning with one out and runners on second and third. The next batter, A.J. Pierzynski, hit into a fielder’s choice.
In the seventh, Pierzynski made the Mariners pay for their intentional walks.
The veteran catcher yanked a first-pitch slider over the right-field wall for a three-run homer, and the Rangers (76-55) went on to hand Seattle (59-71) its fourth consecutive loss.
“It was a good pitch to A.J.,” Saunders said. “He’s kind of a guess hitter, and he guessed right and put a good swing on a good pitch.”
Saunders stood on the mound in disbelief at what transpired. Pierzynski entered the game hitting .227 (5-for-22) with five strikeouts against Saunders. And he was 0-for-3 on Monday going into that at-bat.
“Joe had done a good job of handling A.J. in the times they faced each other,” Wedge said. “He’d handled him fine tonight in the times leading up to that point.”
Down 7-3, the Mariners were done.
“That was a big blow right there,” Wedge said.
The memories of July’s offensive juggernaut have vanished into the ether of swings and misses and weak popouts.
The Mariners’ three runs Monday were more than they scored in three consecutive losses to the Los Angeles Angels during this homestand.
“We just have to collectively get it together,” Wedge said. “In the short period of time I’ve been back here, we just haven’t competed at the plate like I’d like us to.”
Saunders gave up two runs in the first inning on an Alex Rios single to center. Seattle tied the score in the third when Brad Miller dumped a single into left field off former Mariners prospect Travis Blackley, driving in Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley.
Texas answered in the fourth inning.
After Rios doubled to right off the glove of a diving Franklin Gutierrez, Jeff Baker was awarded a single after his hard ground ball struck second base umpire Dale Scott. Saunders then got Mitch Moreland to line out.
It appeared as though Saunders would escape the jam, but second baseman Nick Franklin bobbled a routine double-play ball, getting just one out and allowing Rios to score from third. Elvis Andrus punched a single to right to make it 4-2.
“Debacle” was how Saunders summed up the inning.
The Mariners cut the lead to 4-3 in the bottom of the fourth when Kyle Seager blasted a solo homer to right off Blackley. It was his 20th homer of the season, and he became the first player since Beltre to hit at least 20 homers in back-to-back seasons.
“We were battling,” Seager said.
But the battle became much more difficult after Pierzynski’s home run. Moreland made it impossible by blasting a solo homer off reliever Yoervis Medina in the eighth inning to make it 8-3.
Saunders worked seven innings, giving up seven runs on nine hits with three walks (two intentional) and no strikeouts.
“I thought I pitched better than the results,” he said. “I’ve just had some bad luck. You just have to keep your head, keep pushing forward, keep working hard and trust that things are going to turn around.”
Saunders is happy he won’t see the Rangers again this season. In 16 career starts against Texas, he’s 4-10 with a 6.40 earned-run average.
Blackley, a former Mariners prospect whom the Rangers recently claimed off waivers from the Houston Astros, worked six innings, giving up three runs on five hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
Not bad for a guy who was pitching as a reliever most of the year.
“I’ve seen him do it against us when he pitched with Oakland,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “He has an idea of what he’s doing out there.”ryan.divish@ thenewstribune.com 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish