ARLINGTON, Texas -- Neal Cotts has been almost invincible this season.
Except against Seattle.
For the second time this season, the Seattle Mariners stung him for a home run, and this one provided the difference in a 3-1 loss on Friday night at Rangers Ballpark.
The Texas Rangers took a 1-0 lead into the top of eighth against a Mariners' offense that managed two hits off Derek Holland. Texas was 58-2 when leading after seven innings. Cotts had the best ERA -- 0.69 -- of any American League reliever.
Sounds like a slam dunk. It wasn't.
Cotts started the inning with a strikeout off Mariners leadoff hitter Brad Miller. The Rangers' lefty then got ahead of second baseman Nick Franklin with an 0-2 count and threw four straight balls to put him on first base.
That brought up Seager, who was hitless in his previous 21 at-bats. Except there's a catch. He had an 11-game hitting streak going at Rangers Ballpark. He was batting .510 during the stretch with three home runs. If Seager's luck was going to change ...
Cotts got ahead of Seager 0-2 and left a fastball up over the plate that the Ranger killer was able to get over right fielder Alex Rios' glove for a two-run home run. The lead was gone.
"It's real frustrating," Cotts said. "I need to concentrate a little more and make a better pitch 0-2."
Cotts, who gave up a home run to Raul Ibanez the last time Seattle was in town, tried to stay away from Seager. But his fastball drifted back over the plate.
"If he was going to beat us, we wanted it to be the other way and I left a pitch over the middle," Cotts said. "I didn't want him to do what he did."
The Rangers had many chances to win Friday's game that was both weird -- because of shaky umpiring -- and left you wondering because Derek Holland was taken out after throwing 105 pitches.
Let's start with Holland. He allowed two hits in seven innings, both in the fifth. He's the first Rangers starter with three games of seven-plus innings and two or fewer hits since Nolan Ryan did it in 1991.
Holland's fastball was also getting a little wild in his last few innings, and with a run of lefties coming up, Rangers manager Ron Washington turned a 1-0 lead over to Cotts. Lefties were in a 2-for-28 tailspin against him.
Should Holland have stayed in for the eight? The Mariners took out starter Hisashi Iwakuma after 97 pitches and seven innings.
"I felt strong and I was ready to go," Holland said.
Holland may have had a larger lead when he left the game if not for two shaky calls by the umpiring crew, as Washington was running out of the dugout more than the Mariners were getting on base in the first few innings.
"He said Elvis got blocked off the plate and [Quintero] reached back and got the tag down," Washington said.
In the fourth inning, when A.J. Pierzynski drove in the Rangers' only run, he was called out by umpire Angel Hernandez for sliding over the second-base bag. Replays showed that Pierzynski kept his hand on the bag.
Ultimately, the Rangers had a chance to make their own breaks in the bottom of the eighth. They had a walk and hit batter to start the inning and had runners at second and third with one out with Ian Kinsler up.
Kinsler was the hero Wednesday night with a clutch two-run single, but he struck out on a nasty fastball by Yoervis Medina. After an intentional walk to Adrian Beltre, Pierzynski was kept in to face left-hander Charlie Furbush.
Pierzynski was 6-for-10 against lefties for August before the at-bat, but Furbush has been devastating against left-handed hitters. Pierzynski hit a flare to third base to end the inning.
"I knew they were playing back," Pierzynski said. "I just didn't get it."
The Rangers, winners of 14 out of 16 coming into Friday, started this streak by winning games like this. On a weird night when the close calls went against them and Cotts for one of the few times this season wasn't nails, baseball was against them.
"No excuses, no reasons," Pierzynski said. "It just didn't happen."