ARLINGTON, Texas -- With unblemished closer J.J. Putz finally back on the mound, the Seattle Mariners had to anticipate a winning end to a miserable trip.
Except, they only felt worse when it was over.
Putz, who hadn't allowed a run in 16 road appearances this season and hadn't blown a save since last year, gave up a two-run homer to Ramon Vazquez with two outs in the eighth inning as the Texas Rangers rallied for a 7-6 victory Wednesday night to complete a four-game sweep.
"There's not much I can say. He put a good swing on it," Putz said. "This is not the best time for this to happen. ... Things aren't going our way. We're in a bad cycle."
Having not pitched since Friday, Putz came on with one on and one out in the eighth. He struck out Gerald Laird, but Vazquez hit a 414-foot drive to right-center -- his fifth of the season.
Putz had converted a majors-best 31 straight save chances, including all 29 this year, and had thrown 22 consecutive scoreless innings.
"He's human," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I don't care how good you are, things can turn for you sometimes in the wrong direction."
Seattle lost its sixth straight game since winning the trip opener at Toronto to get within a game of the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels. Five of the losses were by one run, including all four games in Texas, but they have only slipped to 3 ½ games back.
"It's been a long trip. We need to get out of here," Mariners manager John McLaren said. "No one feels worse than J.J. He's the ultimate gamer."
Marlon Byrd led off the eighth with a single and Frank Catalanotto had a sacrifice bunt - both against different pitchers before Putz came in the game.
"Just looking for a fastball, trying to get a pitch I can drive," said Vazquez, a regular in the Rangers lineup only because third baseman Hank Blalock and second baseman Ian Kinsler are on the disabled list. "I got ahead 2-0 and then I just started thinking get on base, give me a chance."
Kenny Lofton homered and drove in three runs in what might have been his last home game for the Rangers, who matched their longest winning streak of the season with the four-game sweep -- their first since doing the same to Seattle at home last August.
Lofton's two-run homer in the third put the Rangers up 3-1. After Seattle tied the game, the 40-year-old added a tiebreaking RBI single in the fifth and scored on a double by Mark Teixeira, who may also be gone by time Texas plays at home again Aug. 6.
"Kenny's just being Kenny. He's just going to keep doing it," Byrd said. "Hopefully, he keeps doing it here."
With the Rangers again in last place in the AL West, there has been plenty of interest from contending teams in acquiring Teixeira and Lofton before Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline. And general manager Jon Daniels is listening to the offers.
Lofton was 2-for-5 to raise his average to .303 - four points better than his career average over 17 seasons. Texas became his 11th team when he signed a one-year deal last winter. The still-speedy outfielder, with 21 of his 620 steals this season, has been to the playoffs 10 times with six teams.
Teixeira, the switch-hitting slugger who has won two Gold Gloves at first base, is eligible for salary arbitration after this season and can become a free agent after 2008. He is hitting .299 with 13 home runs and 49 RBI despite missing 27 games with a strained left quadriceps after playing a team-record 507 consecutive games.
Adrian Beltre tied a team record with three doubles and drove in four runs for the Mariners, including his two-run double in the eighth off Joaquin Benoit (4-3) that tied the game before he came home on a double by Raul Ibanez to put Seattle up 6-5.
Benoit had allowed only one run over 18 2/3 innings in his previous 14 outings before giving up three doubles in the eighth. He pitched a perfect ninth.
Catalanotto and Laird had back-to-back doubles in the second to put the Rangers up 1-0. Travis Metcalf, 9-for-13 his last four games, had a leadoff single in the third before Lofton's seventh homer.
Michael Young, who was 2-for-4, was thrown out at home while trying to score from first on Teixeira's double in the fifth.
Ichiro Suzuki, the only player with more hits than Young since 2003, also had two hits and scored twice. But he struck out with two on to end the sixth and popped out to short center field with two more on in the eighth.
"It's frustrating. We're losing tight games," Putz said. "But there is not a sense of panic. We'll keep playing hard and things will turn around."
The Mariners play their next 10 games at home, including three next week against the Angels.
Rangers starter Brandon McCarthy allowed three runs in five innings and still hasn't won since May 20 at Houston. Seattle's Miguel Batista had allowed only 12 earned runs over 44 innings his last seven starts, but gave up five runs in six innings.