SEATTLE (AP) — Joe Nathan’s ninth inning was filled with elusive ground balls, screams to first baseman Michael Young, and, ultimately, an exhale after a strikeout.
Nathan allowed two earned runs in the bottom of the ninth, but prior work by Texas starter Derek Holland and third baseman Adrian Beltre allowed the Rangers to hang on for a 3-2 win Friday night against the Seattle Mariners.
The inning started quietly enough for Nathan. Jesus Montero grounded out to shortstop, continuing yet another woeful offensive night for the Mariners, who had just three hits up to that point.
Then Kyle Seager singled. Despite a pitch that broke his bat, Justin Smoak singled to the left side. Pinch-hitter John Jaso singled to right. Suddenly, the Mariners had the bases loaded and one out as Nathan teetered.
Michael Saunders hit a hard ground ball that hit Young in the shoulder and bounced well away from the first baseman. Seager scored and Smoak was on his way around before being held by third base coach Jeff Datz. Saunders sprinted around first and saw the stopped runners in front of him too late.
Nathan yelled to Young, who recovered to throw back to first from foul territory, enabling Nathan to tag out Saunders.
A wild pitch eventually scored Smoak and Nathan had to strike out Dustin Ackley with the bases loaded to finish his 19th save.
“I don’t care if I give up eight runs in an inning, as long as we walk off with a W,” Nathan said.
The frazzled ninth was preceded by the Rangers cruising behind Derek Holland.
Holland entered the game with a 5.05 ERA and only one scoreless start in 2012, which came over six innings at Baltimore on May 10.
Friday, he threw 7 2-3 innings, struck out four, walked two and didn’t allow a run. Two of the four hits he gave up were to Casper Wells, and all were singles. Holland had thrown a previous high of 7 1-3 innings three times this season.
“I want to be the starter and the closer,” Holland said.
Adrian Beltre’s 16th homer of the season came on a 1-0 pitch from Seattle starter Kevin Millwood in the sixth inning. It was Beltre’s fourth career home run off the veteran and drove in Josh Hamilton, who had singled, to put the Rangers up 3-0.
Millwood (3-7) threw 6 2/3 innings, allowed three earned runs on eight hits and two walks. He struck out four.
Ian Kinsler’s fifth-inning single to left produced an out and a run for Texas. Young scored from third, but catcher Mike Napoli, who had stolen his first base of the year earlier in the inning, was thrown out at the plate by Wells. That ended an inning helped along by Ackley dropping the transfer on a likely double play off Napoli’s bat.
Napoli bruised his thigh on the slide and came out of the game after the eighth inning. Napoli likely won’t catch the next two days.
The Mariners loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but Holland wriggled free. Smoak put up a 10-pitch at-bat — which included a foul ball into the second deck about 15 feet left of the foul pole — before popping up to shortstop.
“I think that was a huge at-bat,” Holland said.
Miguel Olivo then hit a flare into right field that Nelson Cruz charged to make a sliding catch.
Holland finished the erratic inning, he walked two and threw seven consecutive balls at one point, without allowing a run.
“That is kind of where we are right now,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “But, you can’t give into the fight.”
NOTES: Texas starter Colby Lewis threw a bullpen session Friday and is on track to start Wednesday. Lewis is working back from right forearm tendinitis which put him on the disabled list June 24. . Mariners OF Franklin Gutierrez (concussion) was cleared for non-baseball exercise Friday. Gutierrez was hit in the ear by a pick-off throw to first base June 28 and was placed on the seven-day disabled list. . Seattle failed to sign its eighth-round pick Nick Halamandaris by Friday’s deadline, and he will return to Cal.