Rangers lose lead in 9th, slip to Mariners 4-3

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Franklin Gutierrez saved the Seattle Mariners with his bat and then with his glove.

Gutierrez drove in the go-ahead run to cap a three-run ninth inning and then made a leaping catch against the wall in right-center field as the Mariners ended a four-game skid with a 4-3 victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday.

Gutierrez’s spectacular grab came with one out in the ninth when he ranged into the gap to rob Elvis Andrus of extra bases.

“It was a tough catch, definitely,” said Gutierrez, who extended his hitting streak to 11 games, dating to last season. “He hit it good. The ball was pretty much over the fence so I knew I had to take a chance to jump and see if I could catch the ball. It was big at that time because if I don’t catch the ball, it’s a (inside-the-park homer) and they tie the game.”

Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki was impressed.

“It’s a very tricky park in that corner so it’s a tough play,” Suzuki said through an interpreter. “It happens in an instant. You can only make that play in an instant. He’s desperate to catch that ball.”

Seattle’s comeback came against closer Frank Francisco, who blew his second-straight save opportunity. Francisco (0-2) allowed three runs and three hits while retiring only one batter.

“I’m missing a lot in the middle” of the plate, Francisco said. “I wish it would be the opposite, but I have to deal with it.”

Texas manager Ron Washington was noncommittal when asked if Francisco had lost his job.

“Stay tuned,” he replied.

Suzuki, Ken Griffey Jr. and Gutierrez had consecutive RBI singles in the ninth for Seattle.

Casey Kotchman led off with a single, Rob Johnson walked and Jack Wilson sacrificed the runners to second and third. Suzuki singled up the middle to make it 3-2 and Ken Griffey Jr.’s pinch-hit single to center drove in Johnson to tie it at 3 and chase Francisco. Gutierrez followed with a single between third and short off Darren O’Day to give the Mariners the lead.

The timely hitting was something the Mariners had been searching for since last winning on opening day. Seattle got four hits in the ninth against the Texas bullpen, and out-hit the Rangers 12-7.

“We had the right guys up in the right situation,” Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said. “We put some better at-bats together today.”

Gutierrez did his part, going 3 for 5, while Wilson and Suzuki each had a pair of hits.

“It was very important, this victory,” Gutierrez said. “We’ve been having a tough time scoring runs. So it was very special that we won. We’ve got to keep doing it and do it better.”

Mark Lowe (1-1) walked two in a scoreless eighth, and David Aardsma worked the ninth for his second save.

The late-inning meltdown spoiled Nelson Cruz’s fourth homer in five games and six strong innings from Matt Harrison.

Cruz homered off Seattle starter Felix Hernandez, lining a 3-1 pitch into the left field seats to give Texas a 3-1 lead in the fifth. Cruz is 8 for 18 and came into the game tied for the AL lead with seven RBIs.

“It’s a tough thing; it should have been a win today,” Cruz said. “It’s really disappointing, but that’s baseball. Anything can happen.”

Harrison, meanwhile, settled down after a shaky start. The left-hander struck out four and scattered six hits, allowing an earned run in his first start since last June. He retired the final eight batters he faced before giving way to Dustin Nippert.

Hernandez allowed three runs — two earned — and seven hits with five strikeouts and a walk over seven innings.

Six of the first 12 batters Harrison faced reached base. But Harrison, coming off season-ending surgery last June for thoracic outlet syndrome, retired Suzuki on a swinging bunt back to the mound with runners at second and third in the second and then struck out Suzuki to end the fourth with runners at first and second.

NOTES: Washington said C Matt Treanor will get his first start for the Rangers on Sunday. Treanor, acquired in a trade with Milwaukee at the end of spring training, became the No. 2 catcher behind Teagarden when Jarrod Saltalamacchia went on the 15-day DL earlier this week. … Texas 2B Ian Kinsler took another step in his rehab from a sprained right ankle on Saturday when he worked on his defense with infield coach Dave Anderson. Kinsler missed the last three weeks of spring training and opened the season on the 15-day DL. There is no timetable for his return. … Manager Don Wakamatsu said LHP Cliff Lee will throw a 45-pitch bullpen session on Sunday in his recovery from a strained abdominal muscle.

Updated April 10, 2010