All A.J. Pierzynski could do was wait.
First to see if his second-inning fly ball would clear the top of the right-field fence for a homer. Then for a crucial flip from pitcher Robbie Ross in the eighth inning as Seattle tried to squeeze across the tying run.
Both times Pierzynski and the Texas Rangers came out ahead.
Pierzynski homered, David Murphy snapped a 2-all tie with an RBI single in the fifth, and the Rangers toppled Seattle ace Felix Hernandez in a 4-3 win over the Mariners on Thursday night.
Pierzynski hit his second homer of the season with one-out in the second. The Rangers added an unearned run later in the inning and scored twice in the fifth to deny Hernandez (1-2) a shot at his 100th career victory.
“We scored some runs off of Felix which doesn’t happen very often,” Pierzynski said. “He’s had the career he’s had and the numbers he’s put up in his career because he’s one of the best. He’s never a fun at-bat.”
Joe Ortiz pitched two innings in relief of Texas starter Justin Grimm to get his first victory. Ortiz (1-0) allowed no hits and striking out two in his fourth relief appearance of the season. Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his third save.
Thursday night was Hernandez’s first home start since he signed a $175 million extension in the offseason that will keep him in Seattle through the 2019 season. The occasion was celebrated with all 22,000-plus fans in attendance receiving giant yellow K-cards and a yellow T-shirt with “King Felix” printed on the front.
There were plenty of cheers early when Hernandez recorded a pair of first inning strikeouts to reach the 1,500-mark in his career. Hernandez got Murphy looking to end the first inning for No. 1,500. He walked off the mound to be greeted by a handshake from Adrian Beltre — one of Hernandez’s closest friends in the game — and catcher Jesus Montero waiting with the ball to commemorate the milestone number.
Hernandez allowed the homer to Pierzynski in the second then saw his defense let him down. Raul Ibanez misplayed Mitch Moreland’s line drive to left field for an error. Leonys Martin followed with a single and with two outs, Elvis Andrus had an RBI single to score Moreland and give the Rangers the lead.
After Seattle pulled even, the Rangers broke the deadlock in the fifth. Ian Kinsler led off with a single and scored on Murphy’s two-out hit. Nelson Cruz followed with a double to left field to score Lance Berkman for a 4-2 lead.
Hernandez allowed 10 hits and three earned runs, leaving after giving up a single to Beltre with two outs in the seventh.
“I thought he was sharper today than his last outing,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “He had better stuff. A couple of pitches he left up that they got to.”
Seattle threatened twice late in the game, none bigger than the eighth inning. Justin Smoak singled and Jesus Montero doubled to open the eighth. Robert Andino followed with a slow chopper to score Smoak and cut the Rangers’ lead to 4-3 with pinch-runner Endy Chavez advancing to third.
Seattle then tried to squeeze across the tying run, but Brendan Ryan’s bunt went directly back at Ross, who moved quickly off the mound and flipped the ball Pierzynski in time to get Chavez breaking from third.
“Lucky for us he bunted it hard enough to where Robbie could get it to me in time,” Pierzynski said. “I was just begging for him to get it to me as fast as he could because it’s an awkward play for a catcher.”
An inning earlier, Ross entered and struck out Raul Ibanez with the bases loaded to end the seventh.
It was Seattle’s third straight loss and the only bit of news that was good for Seattle surrounded Michael Morse, who left the game in the seventh inning after getting hit on the right hand as he checked his swing. Morse was diagnosed with a small fracture in his right little finger. He’s expected to miss 3 to 7 days.
“I’m going to try and rehab this as best I can real quick,” Morse said. “Might have to play through some pain.”
Notes: Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman threw out the first pitch. He was joined by teammates Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor with seats in the first row near the Rangers dugout. ... Seattle gave 2B Dustin Ackley the night off. Ackley is hitting just .100. ... Japanese pitchers Yu Darvish and Hisashi Iwakuma will meet for the third time in their major league careers on Friday night. The pitchers faced off six times while playing in Nippon Professional Baseball.