ARLINGTON, Texas — The showdown was overshadowed by a meltdown.
The much-anticipated pitching duel Wednesday night between Felix Hernandez and Yu Darvish was everything it should have been — nasty breaking pitches, ridiculous change-ups, hissing fastballs and plenty of swings and misses.
But in the end, it was a late-inning implosion by the Mariners that decided the game, leaving the brilliant starting pitching as a footnote.
Seattle shortstop Brad Miller made a costly error and closer Fernando Rodney struggled with his command, allowing the tying run to score on a wild pitch and then giving up a walkoff single to Leonys Martin in a brutal 3-2 defeat against the Texas Rangers.
“That’s baseball,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Those things happen. Over the course of a 162-game schedule, you are going to win your share of those and you are going to lose your share of them. When you are on the losing end, it never feels good. Like I told my guys, ‘Turn the page, get ready for tomorrow.’ ”
After getting two outs in the bottom of the ninth and clinging to a 2-1 lead, Rodney gave up a single to Kevin Kouzmanoff and then walked Mitch Moreland. It appeared the Mariners had sealed the victory when pinch-hitter Donnie Murphy bounced a routine ground ball to Miller. But Miller bobbled the ball and then tried to make an underhand toss to Robinson Cano at second base. It was high, forcing Cano to leap off the bag and allowing Moreland to slide in safe.
“Once I bobbled it, I was thinking second was my best option,” Miller said. “It kind of ran up on me and I went to get it to him and threw it too high. I saw it was high off the get-go.”
With Martin at the plate and the bases loaded, Rodney threw a fastball by catcher Mike Zunino to the backstop that let Kouzmanoff sprint home to tie the game.
“We were going for a fastball away and it was just pulled across his arm,” Zunino said of the inside pitch.
Martin won it moments later with a bloop single into left, setting off a wild celebration at Globe Life Park.
While McClendon implored his players to “Turn the page,” it won’t easy for Miller, who held himself responsible.
“That sucks,” Miller said. “Everybody did their part, but me. That’s tough. I have to make that play next time. It came down to me and I messed it up.”
Yet another brilliant Hernandez outing was wasted like so many before in his Seattle career. But Hernandez wouldn’t point any fingers of blame. He never does.
“It’s a tough loss, but what can I say, it’s baseball,” he said.
Hernandez pitched seven innings, allowing one run on four hits with a walk and nine strikeouts.
That one run came in the eighth inning when he gave up a leadoff triple to Martin.
Hernandez was replaced by Charlie Furbush, who surrendered a sacrifice fly to pinch-hitter Michael Choice. That one run was charged to Hernandez.
“I had talked to him before (the eighth) and he said he thought he had a little left in the tank,” McClendon said. “But he got that fastball up and he started to lose his location a little bit. And he said he was pretty much out of gas.”
Hernandez admitted he was fighting fatigue.
“I was a little tired,” he said. “I made one mistake in the game and that was the pitch to Leonys. It’s always hard coming out when you want to be out there as long as you can.”
Otherwise, the start was pure precision.
Hernandez allowed just two runners to reach second base.
It was the 67th start since 2009 in which Hernandez has allowed one run or less in seven or more innings pitched.