ARLINGTON, Texas - Spending nearly a dozen of his 29 years in the Mariner organization, Mario Diaz never learned how to make it to Seattle for long.
But in 91 games with the major-league club spread over three seasons, he did learn its pitching.
And the Scott Bankhead he homered off, helping the Rangers eke out a 7-6 win over Seattle last night at Arlington Stadium, was not the pitcher he remembered.
"I caught Bankie for years, warming him up, in spring training, in Seattle and even when he came to Calgary on rehabs," said Diaz, who has found a home as a backup infielder for the Rangers. "And that fastball he threw tonight was not the fastball he used to have."
This insight was confirmed by Bankhead, who looked good for two innings but was hounded from the mound by a four-run Texas third that started with a rare Diaz homer, his second in the majors.
"I never got a real good feel for my fastball," said Bankhead. "Every hit they got in that inning came off the pitch. I did not have command and I came up in the strike zone. When you throw high pitches to good hitters, you get hit."
Bankhead said Diaz's shot did not break his concentration.
It also didn't make much of an impression on Diaz. "Hey, if I get a mistake, I can hit it out," he said, "but that's not me. I try to play good defense and chip in on offense when I can."
Some in Seattle were not satisfied with that. When Diaz was traded to the New York Mets last year, many were upset that the Mariners gave up on him.
Diaz, who came to the Mariner organization from Puerto Rico at the age of 17, isn't one of them. After playing in the shadows of Seattle shortstops from Mario Mendoza to Omar Vizquel, he wanted a fresh start.
"I was upset at not getting a chance with the Mariners," Diaz said. "But that is over now. I did not care that the home run came against them, only that I helped our team win a game."
This game might have been Seattle's if not for several turning points, including Diaz's homer and RBI suicide-squeeze bunt that gave Texas a 7-1 lead in the fifth inning.
It was a costly evening. Dave Valle was scratched from the lineup when his left knee, hit by a pitch Thursday night, bothered him during batting practice. Ken Griffey Jr. injured his shoulder on a third-inning throw and left the game. Valle's status is day-to-day; Griffey is expected to play tonight.
On the field, it didn't go much differently until the eighth and ninth innings, when Seattle came up with five runs against the Texas bullpen. Had center fielder Juan Gonzalez not come down with Pete O'Brien's drive to the wall with two on and two out in the eighth, they might have pulled it off.
The Mariners loaded the bases with no outs in the third against Ranger starter Gerald Alexander, who pitched the first two innings like Grover Cleveland, not Gerald.
Harold Reynolds brought a run home with the first of his two sacrifice flies, and advanced the other runners into scoring position. But Alexander struck out Ken Griffey Sr. and got Junior on a pop-up to first base.
"If we had been able to jump out with a big inning, we might have been able to walk away like we did Thursday night," Seattle Manager Jim Lefebvre said. "But Texas did it."
After Diaz's homer with one out in the bottom of the third, Bankhead gave up four straight two-out hits to make it 4-1.
Bill Krueger came on in relief, walked the bases full and got out of the jam. He started the fourth with two walks and nearly got out of it again. But third baseman Edgar Martinez made an error on Ruben Sierra's grounder, and the Rangers scored two unearned runs to make it 6-1.
Seattle pounded reliever Mike Jeffcoat for two runs on four hits to make it 7-3, but stopper Jeff Russell did just that on O'Brien's 400-foot out to center.
Jay Buhner opened the ninth with his third hit, and Scott Bradley doubled him to third. Both scored on outs. Tracy Jones homered to make it a one-run game, but Russell got Alonzo Powell looking at strike three to end it.
RICE LOOKS LIKE MAN TO REPLACE HANSON
ARLINGTON, Texas - After Bill Krueger pitched 4 1/3 innings of relief last night, Pat Rice was named to start tomorrow's game in place of Erik Hanson who was placed on the 15 day disabled list with more elbow trouble.
Thursday night, the Rangers changed tomorrow's starting pitcher from Jose Guzman to Nolan Ryan, who threw only 69 pitches in his previous start.
-- The Mariners took a chance putting Matt Sinatro, a good defensive catcher, on waivers to make room for Alonzo Powell earlier this week. But other teams passed on Sinatro, and he accepted assignment to Calgary. That leaves Jeff Schaefer in the uncomfortable position of replacing his good friend as a catcher for the Mariners in emergency situations such as the one Seattle faced last night when Dave Valle was scratched from the starting lineup. Valle was hit in the left leg by Texas pitcher Mike Jeffcoat Thursday night.
-- Center fielder Ken Griffey Jr.'s 280-foot throw to catch Kevin Reimer trying to advance to third base on a fly ball Thursday gave Seattle its 69th double play, most in the major leagues. The Mariners turned another DP in last night's loss.
-- The Rangers' Juan Gonzalez, hitting .339, was back in center field last night after missing Thursday night's game with a sore right knee.
-- Baltimore claimed left-hander Jim Poole from Texas, which had put him on waivers earlier this week.
-- Pitcher Erik Hanson (elbow) was returned to the 15-day disabled list.
-- At Phoenix 16, Calgary (22-26) 7 - Phoenix blasted five Calgary pitchers for 19 hits as the Firebirds romped to a Pacific Coast League victory. Alan Cockrell hit his second homer for the Cannons, who had 14 hits in the 3-hour, 47-minute marathon. -- Huntsville 6, Jacksonville (30-20) 3 -- Prince William 4-3, Peninsula (14-34) 3-5 -- San Bernardino (19-32) 6, Visalia 0