It was eerily reminiscent of the ending of the Rays-White Sox game just minutes earlier. No sooner had the Mariners taken a 6-3 lead on the visiting Rangers in bottom of the eighth Friday night, than their closer was melting down on the mound in the top of the ninth.
Fernando Rodney gave up a single to Mitch Moreland on his second pitch, erased him on a fielder's choice, then gave up a single to Leonys Martin to bring the tying run to the plate. Rodney got ahead of Josh Wilson 0-2 only to hit him with the third pitch, loading the bases and bringing up the go-ahead run. Rodney walked that man, Michael Choice, on six pitches, forcing in a run, then walked Elvis Andrus on six more tosses. That made it 6-5 with the bases still loaded, one out, and Adrian Beltre, fresh off the disabled list with an RBI double already under his belt on the night, coming to the plate.
The Rangers seemed assured of at least tying the game and likely to take the lead. Then, on Rodney's 1-1 pitch, Beltre hit a screaming liner toward the right-field corner.
Except the ball never got to right field. Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak, playing well off the line against the right-handed Beltre, went completely airborne with a diving stop to his left to snare Beltre's drive in mid-flight
, then scampered to first base to double-off Andrus for the final out of the game. Graig Nettles
would be proud.