ARLINGTON, Texas — The approach taken by Kyle Seager in this game’s decisive at-bat typified what his Seattle Mariners teammates had spent the afternoon doing.
Seager kept on hanging around against Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan with two on and two out in the ninth inning of a tie game. Down two strikes early, Seager fouled some pitches off and eventually lined a double that sealed this 4-3 win over a Texas squad that had allowed Seattle to hang in there just a little too long.
A patient, pitch-taking Mariners squad thus emerged from Rangers Ballpark with a surprising victory over staff ace Yu Darvish and series win against his first-place ballclub.
“When you get down 0-2 against a guy like (Nathan), you pretty much just have to calm down,” Seager said. “You can’t let his good stuff and everything get you over-excited. That’s what he kind of feasts on. You’ve just got to stay calm, stay with your approach and look for a pitch you can hit.”
Seager didn’t exactly get the most hittable pitch on Nathan’s low offering that he lined for the double. But he got enough of it to push the run across and make a winner out of reliever Yoervis Medina once Danny Farquhar notched the save in a 1-2-3 ninth.
The victory marked a solid rebound by a Mariners club beaten 15-3 the previous night and that had lost 13 of 20 and was going up against one of the top pitchers in the game. Instead, the Mariners hung tough when it looked like the Rangers might be ready to put them away and improved to 3-3 on this nine-game trip.
A crowd of 40,832 had seen the Mariners get the leadoff batter on in each of their final five innings against Darvish and the Texas bullpen. They worked counts against him all day, batted hard once they fell behind and eventually forced him from the game after 120 pitches one out into the eighth inning.
Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez also matched Darvish pitch-for-pitch, working through seven innings while allowing just two runs — one earned — and leaving with a 3-2 lead.
“During the game, I just stayed focused on throwing strikes,” Ramirez said. “I didn’t think about playing Texas, one of the best teams right now. I didn’t think much about names. I just went and did my work.”
In his best outing yet since a Class AAA call-up last month, he allowed just four hits. The Rangers got a leadoff single from Craig Gentry to start the game, then didn’t get their next hit until A.J. Pierzynski doubled to start the fifth.
Pierzynski later scored to tie it 1-1 on a sacrifice fly by Mitch Moreland, the only earned run Ramirez allowed.
Seattle came right back to take a 2-1 lead in the sixth as Michael Saunders battled Darvish through seven pitches before doubling to right field to score Nick Franklin. Saunders had fallen behind 1-2 early in the count, but, like Seager, battled back until he got the pitch he wanted.
“At that point, I was just looking to try to put the ball in play,” Saunders said. “He’d thrown two fastballs by me and tried finishing me with the breaking stuff. I was just battling.
“I was expecting a fastball more than anything because of what he threw me earlier in the at-bat,” he added. “But he threw me another breaking ball and I just ended up putting the barrel on the ball.”
The Rangers wound up tying it 2-2 with an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth after an error by Seager. But the Mariners seemed to keep responding to every Texas push and retook the lead in the eighth when Dustin Ackley lined a single off Robbie Ross, who had come on to replace Darvish.
Ackley had five hits the final two games this series and is 9 for 22 (.409) on the road trip. Most of his hits keep going to the middle of the field.
“I feel great through the past few weeks as far as hitting balls that way,” he said. “I’m not trying to pull off of anything.”
The Rangers again tied it off Medina in the bottom of the eighth. But then Endy Chavez got the leadoff single, advanced to second on a bunt and was still there when Seager delivered the two-out hit.
“Not a knock on anyone else, but when a game’s on the line like that, it’s Kyle Seager,” Mariners interim manager Robby Thompson said. “I don’t care whether he’s coming out of a slump or not. He’s a battler up there. He went down and got the ball. He’s a gritty grinder and … he knows how to battle with two strikes.”
As did a good part of the order on a day the Mariners didn’t make easy for Darvish.
“All down the lineup,” Thompson said. “Against one of the best pitchers in the game of baseball right now. Each time we’ve faced him, we seem to battle him pretty well.”