Previously struggling Vicente Padilla baffled Seattle with perhaps the best no-decision in Texas history. Seattle’s Erik Bedard matched Padilla with continual escapes from Rangers rallies.
Ultimately, all of that mattered less than a cruel, painful twist to a relatively unknown rookie.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a grand slam that capped a six-run burst with two outs in the 10th inning off emergency fill-in Denny Stark, and the surging Rangers took advantage of a sudden injury to Seattle reliever Shawn Kelley to beat the depleted, first-place Mariners 7-2 Tuesday.
“I think they played so many extra-inning games with Oakland (last weekend) their bullpen was a little tired,” Texas manager Ron Washington said after his team’s season-high fourth straight win.
The 25-year-old Kelley, whom Texas hitters had never seen, entered to begin the 10th. He threw three pitches to Elvis Andrus and then fell in pain as if he was shot, from a strained muscle on his left side. A trainer immediately rushed to the mound and escorted Kelley to the clubhouse—and likely onto the disabled list.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said Kelley, who has a 1.54 ERA in 10 games less nine months after being at Double A, was being considered to finish games until closer Brandon Morrow returns from the disabled list this weekend.
“We felt good—and then all of a sudden he pulls an oblique,” Wakamatsu said of Kelly. “It’s pretty devastating.”
Stark, pitching in the major leagues this week for the first time in five years, was summoned on no notice and retired the first two batters before the Rangers broke loose.
“A tough situation for Stark to come in there,” Wakamatsu said, understating the challenge of Stark’s third outing in three days.
Until this week, the 34-year-old had none in the major leagues since July 2004, following two ligament replacement surgeries in his elbow. As Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik phoned Wakamatsu in the dugout asking about Kelley, Stark got two fly outs before singles by Andruw Jones and Hank Blalock.
Then Byrd, who had lost 100 points on his batting average in two weeks to get down to .317 entering the game, waited on a changeup and singled home pinch-runner David Murphy.
Cruz made it 3-1 with another single before Saltalamacchia hit Stark’s seventh pitch for his second career slam.
“I saw Stark pitching yesterday, so I had a better idea what was coming,” Jones said. “We took advantage of it.”
Padilla allowed one hit and one unearned run in eight innings. Mixing 61 mph floaters with 94 mph fastballs, he did not allow a hit until two outs into the fifth when Wladimir Balentien singled.
Washington had insisted Padilla was not a weak link despite a 7.43 ERA. Then Padilla struck out four and walked one, becoming the first pitcher in Texas history throw eight innings, allow one hit or fewer and get a no-decision.
“I’m happy because we won the game. … There’s no problem with that,” Padilla said through an interpreter, shrugging his shoulders and smiling.
Darren O’Day (1-0) allowed his first run of the season in the 10th before Frank Francisco finished.
Cruz hit starter Bedard’s first-pitch fastball with one out in the seventh off the facing of the second deck far beyond left field to tie it at 1. His seventh homer run of the season was the 47th for the Rangers, tops by far in the major leagues.
Bedard allowed seven hits and struck out seven in seven innings. The Rangers said he mixed them up by throwing breaking balls earlier in counts and saving fastballs for later.