SEATTLE -- Feet perched on his locker and arm wrapped in ice, Texas reliever C.J. Wilson lamented missing his location on the one pitch that sent his team to a 3-1 loss against the Mariners on Thursday night. "One hundred and ninety nine times out of 200, that's a ground-ball out," Wilson said. "First time I've made a mistake with that pitch all season. I've thrown 500 of those things, and it's the first time I've made a mistake." The pitch was a sinker, and it ended up over the left-center-field fence after Franklin Gutierrez hit it out for what proved to be a game-winning three-run blast with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
A curtain call followed after the crowd of 24,823 at Safeco Field roared its approval. "My hat is off to those guys," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "They won that game tonight. We didn't give it to them." Instead, the Mariners found a way to take the opening game of a four-game set, because of Gutierrez's blast, but also because of a key at-bat by Ken Griffey Jr. one batter prior. Griffey worked a two-out walk, battling Wilson for eight pitches before finally taking a fastball that just missed outside for ball four. "I thought I had him on the last pitch, but it just was a little bit outside," Wilson said. "I thought maybe he was going to swing at it. I threw the ball where I wanted to throw it, within a couple inches, it just wasn't right where I wanted to throw it. It's pretty simple." Before that, Texas looked as if it may have stolen a win from Seattle on a night when its ace pitcher, Felix Hernandez, was as dominant as ever. Hernandez allowed only three hits in eight innings while earning his ninth win of the season. But the Rangers broke through with some slick execution on the basepaths. Ian Kinsler worked a two-out walk in the sixth, then Michael Young followed with a single to bring Josh Hamilton to the plate. That's when the Rangers took advantage of Hernandez's high leg kick, pulling off a double steal to put runners on second and third. Kinsler scored later in the at-bat when Hernandez threw a pitch in the dirt that got away from Mariners catcher Rob Johnson. "Toward the end of the at bat, I felt like if I can get to third, now that [Hamilton] is behind, maybe [Hernandez] will make a mistake and Josh can drive in two runs," Kinsler said. "Third base was there if I wanted it." But Gutierrez's homer made sure Hernandez's efforts wouldn't go to waste. "[Hernandez] showed why he's an All-Star," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "His sinker was absolutely unhittable at times. The one miscue, where he got two quick outs and then a walk and hit ... we'll take that any day of the week." Tommy Hunter made it a pitchers' duel and kept the Rangers around by turning in another solid start, and until the eighth was in line for his second Major League victory. He walked three and gave up four hits in six innings of work, matching Hernandez zero for zero until Texas took the lead in the sixth. "I wish I could have gotten the pitch counts down," Hunter said. "I walked too many people again. There's always things you improve on. Just trying to go out there and get better and better each time." The loss is the first for Texas against Seattle this season. The Rangers had taken the previous five meetings, three of them in one-run affairs, a few of them filled with late-inning dramatics. This time, the roles were reversed. And instead of taking a 5 1/2-game lead over the Mariners atop the American League West standings, Texas now holds just a half-game lead over second-place Los Angeles and a 3 1/2-game spread over the Mariners. "It was going to be the first team that gave something up," Washington said, "and they gave up a wild pitch, and I thought we set up perfectly with who we had in the game. And we just didn't get it done." For the first time in this season series, it was the Rangers trying to explain what went wrong late. "I'm going to go after everybody I face," Wilson said. "[Gutierrez] is not a guy that has a particular history with me or anything like that. I had a plan. I just didn't execute the plan."
Christian Caple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.