"I know I was dragging a little bit," left fielder Frank Catalanotto said. "You don't want to make excuses but that might be a pretty good one tonight. But it was just one of those nights where they had a big inning and it kind of took the wind out of our sails."
The Rangers led 3-1 going into the sixth inning before the Mariners, aided by third baseman Travis Metcalf's error, turned on starter Kameron Loe. In doing so the Mariners snapped a four-game losing streak against the Rangers and now lead the American League Wild Card race by two games. They also moved within one game of the first-place Angels in the AL West.
"This is a pretty good series to see where we stand as a team," first baseman Brad Wilkerson said. "The Mariners are fighting for a playoff spot and it would be good to see us play well against them."
Jose Guillen started the sixth with a leadoff home run off of Loe and Jose Vidro finished the scoring spree with a two-run homer off of reliever Mike Wood. But two of the biggest plays in the inning were Metcalf's error and a two-out, three-run double by longtime Rangers nemesis Ichiro Suzuki.
That was the at-bat that had Loe second-guessing himself, as it once again came down to his internal debate of relying on his best pitch vs. mixing in his secondary pitches.
The Rangers led 3-1 going into the sixth. Wilkerson, who was a late addition to the lineup after Gerald Laird was scratched because of the flu, hit a two-run home run in the third and Jarrod Saltalamacchia went deep in the fourth. Saltalamacchia now has five home runs in his last six games.
Guillen's home run made it 3-2. Loe got Raul Ibanez on a fly to center, then gave up a single to Adrian Beltre. Richie Sexson followed with a smartly hit bouncing grounder right at Metcalf, who got his glove on it but couldn't field it cleanly for a potential inning-ending double play.
"Sometimes when a ball is hit like that, you think it's hit harder than it is and you end up on your heels," manager Ron Washington said. "He tried to swipe, and a lot of times when you do that the ball is going to stick in your glove. I bet the next nine times he does that the ball sticks in his glove. Tonight it didn't."
Instead it went for an error and Loe loaded the bases by hitting Kenji Johjima with a pitch. Jose Lopez then lined a single to right to score one run but Loe got a big out by getting Yuniesky Betancourt on a foul pop to Saltalamacchia behind the plate.
That brought up Ichiro, who entered the game second in the American League in hitting and with a career .336 average against the Rangers. He was already 2-for-3 against Loe, who started the pivotal at-bat by missing two straight pitches.
Loe responded with sinking fastballs, his best pitch. Ichiro took one, fouled two off and then drilled one over center fielder David Murphy's head. By the time Murphy chased the ball down, three runs were home, Ichiro was standing on second and Loe's once-promising night was over.
Loe said it was a good pitch down and away. He also admitted that four straight fastballs to Ichiro might have been asking for trouble.
"I've been beating myself on that," Loe said. "If I throw any other pitch -- he's in a swing mode -- changeup or curveball, something in the dirt, he probably swings and misses."
Suzuki didn't, but there was another factor involved. The Rangers only have one left-hander in the bullpen and it's C.J. Wilson, who has basically taken over as the closer. They have no other left-handers for middle or setup relief and that might have been a situation for Ron Mahay, who was traded to the Atlanta Braves along with Mark Teixeira.
Without the left-hander, Washington had to stay with Loe.
"We have to go with what we have," Washington said. "I don't know if I would have gone with a left-hander because I don't have one. I thought Kameron was in a good situation to get out of it. He went with his best pitch and Ichiro hit it. That's all there was to it."