Mariners 8, Rangers 6

The Seattle Mariners are just fine playing the role of

spoiler.

Former Rangers infielder Justin Smoak homered in the eighth

inning and drove in a run in the ninth as the Mariners handed

American League West-leading Texas its second loss in three games

with an 8-6 win Saturday night.

With the loss and an Oakland A’s win, the Rangers’ lead is down

to two games ahead of the surging A’s. Seattle will have plenty of

chances to play a part in the final standings, as seven of their

final 16 games are against the Rangers and A’s.

”It’s a little different for (the Rangers) than last year,”

Seattle starting pitcher Justin Vargas said. ”There weren’t any

teams chasing them last year, but now they’re under the gun a

little bit.”

Smoak had three hits, two runs and three RBIs, helping Seattle

build a 6-0 lead in the first three innings while sending Texas

starter Scott Feldman to the bench after just 2 2-3 innings.

Feldman, who had lost his last five starts going into the game,

threw 71 pitches.

Lucas Luetge (2-1) got two outs for the Seattle victory while

Tom Wilhelmsen got the final four outs for his 27th save in 30

chances.

Dustin Ackley homered to lead off the third and Michael Saunders

had a two-run triple. Saunders also had a RBI single in the first.

Smoak scored Saunders with a single and Eric Thames plated Smoak to

make it 6-0. Smoak’s home run was his career-high tying 15th, and

Saunders went 2-for-4 with a triple, walk and three RBI.

”The offense did a great job early on, moving on down the line

and keeping it going,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. ”I feel

like we’ve been swinging the bats well, but not doing a good job

with runners in scoring position. So keeping it going in that one

big inning was big. That and tacking on (a run in the ninth).”

Martin Perez kept the Rangers in the game in relief of Feldman.

He retired 13 of the 15 batters he faced, only allowing a walk and

hitting a batter. He struck out five and became the first Texas

reliever with 4.1-plus innings pitched to allow no hits and no runs

since Mark Brandenburg did the same in 4.2 innings against Seattle

on July 6, 1996.

”I thought he was great,” Washington said. ”The kid came in

and kept the ball down in the zone and had a good change up and was

aggressive. He threw the ball extremely well.”

Texas got on the board in the third after Vargas walked the

bases loaded. Nelson Cruz’s sacrifice fly scored a run for the

Rangers to make it 6-1, but Vargas struck out Michael Young to end

the inning.

In the sixth, catcher Mike Napoli, in his first start after a

stint on the 15-day disabled list because of a left quadriceps

strain, hit a three-run home run to bring the Rangers within two,

6-4.

Napoli made his last rehab start at DH on Friday night for

Double A Frisco by going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Going into

Saturday’s game against the Mariners, Napoli joked that he told his

Rangers teammates that he got those out of the way and ”left the

strikeouts down there.”

Cruz had an RBI single in the sixth and David Murphy a

run-scoring ground out to tie it.

With the game tied 6-6 in the eighth, Tanner Sheppers relieved

Perez and Smoak led off the inning with his 15th homer. He then had

an RBI single in the ninth that scored John Jaso. Sheppers (1-1)

took the loss.

”I’ve been working really hard left-handed,” said Smoak.

”I’ve been trying to keep both hands on the bat and shorten it up

a little bit. My swing got long. To come around on a fastball like

that, that’s a good sign.”

NOTES: The Rangers activated both C Mike Napoli and LHP Robbie

Ross from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday. Ross (left forearm

strain) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Friday and could have been

available Saturday evening if needed but manager Ron Washington

said they wanted to stay away from him one more day. After the

game, Texas recalled RHP Justin Grimm and RHP Wilmer Font from

Double-A Frisco to give the Rangers 34 active players for Sunday’s

game. Grimm had a prior stint with Texas from June 16-July 6, while

Font is looking for his Major League debut. .Mariners RF Casper

Wells was a late scratch and was replaced by Eric Thames in right

field. ”He took a swing in the cage an his neck locked up pretty

good on him,” Manager Eric Wedge said about Wells. .Wedge

reiterated that the team is going to give RHP Kevin Millwood time

to recover from shoulder stiffness, plugging in RHP Erasmo Ramirez

and RHP Hector Noesi. ”We’ll see if (Millwood’s) going to pitch

again,” Wedge said.