By Evan Webeck, The Sports Xchange
SEATTLE — Cole Hamels is cursed, or so it seems.
For the third time this season, the Texas left-hander exited a start with a lead. And for the third time this season, the Rangers’ bullpen could not hold the advantage.
On Sunday, the culprits were Tony Barnette and Sam Dyson, as the Seattle Mariners erased a five-run deficit, with Nelson Cruz knocking in the winning run in the ninth to give Seattle an 8-7 victory over the Rangers.
Texas and Seattle flipped leads three times after Mariners manager Scott Servais was ejected in the sixth inning.
“I’m not sure what’s more stressful: the TV monitor or the dugout,” Servais joked after his club completed the comeback without him to sweep the three-game series.
Trailing 7-6 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, the Mariners rallied without getting the ball out of the infield.
Pinch hitter Jarrod Dyson singled on a grounder that went off the throwing hand of Sam Dyson. Jarrod Dyson then swiped second, and he took third on a Leonys Martin bunt that was perfectly placed. A pair of walks forced in the tying run, and a Cruz single off the glove of shortstop Elvis Andrus knocked in the winning run.
“When you don’t let a ball out of the infield … I did what I thought I had to do,” the Rangers’ Dyson said after blowing a save for the third time in three chances this season. “I got the ball on the ground, and once again I flubbed it up.
“I’m borderline (ticked) off and angry. You’d think so after four outings like that.”
Texas had managed to plate just a lone run in the series’ first two games, both Mariners wins behind masterful pitching performances from Felix Hernandez and James Paxton.
Hisashi Iwakuma was not as effective on Sunday. After allowing six runs through three innings, he did not return to the mound for the fourth, leaving the game after just 52 pitches. Iwakuma yielded six runs on seven hits.
Shin-Soo Choo’s second-inning blast ended a 25-inning home run drought for the Rangers, who entered the series leading the American League in the category. It brought home Rougned Odor, who doubled, and Jonathan Lucroy, whom Iwakuma hit with a pitch to follow Odor’s double. It was evident Iwakuma didn’t have a feel for much — especially his fastball. Choo sent a hanging curve over the wall.
The Rangers’ second-inning rally spilled over into the third. Nomar Mazara started another Texas three-run inning with a single. Jonathan Lucroy had an RBI single, and Choo added a two-run double to give Texas a 6-1 lead.
Choo tormented his former organization to the tune of five RBIs. That more than doubled his season total, two, entering Sunday. The home run and double were his first extra-base hits of the season.
Texas would need all of them — and more — as Seattle continued to chip away as the Rangers’ lead. Hamels exited after five innings with a 6-4 lead. It took three batters for it to become 6-5 and one batter into the next inning for the Mariners to tie it.
Kyle Seager led off the sixth with a double off Barnette to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. Danny Valencia doubled two batters later to bring him home. Guillermo Heredia led off the seventh with a blast against Barnette that just cleared the left field wall to tie the game.
Mitch Haniger made a spectacular leaping catch at the right field wall that robbed Joey Gallo of a go-ahead two-run home run after Choo reached again in the eighth inning.
Mazara’s solo homer off Edwin Diaz (1-0) in the top of the ninth put the Rangers ahead 7-6.
But Mazara’s one-time heroics only set the Dyson and the Rangers up for a tragic end. Dyson’s ERA rose to 27.00.
“It’s frustrating,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “That’s the fourth one we haven’t been able to close out in that situation. You can look at it a number of different ways. … We hit a home run off of Diaz, we had opportunities to score runs and they made pitches.”
Hamels was charged with four runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks. He struck out two.