Cairo had a two-out RBI single in the 12th inning, then Washburn finished for his first career save as the Mariners beat Texas 4-3 on Wednesday for only their third victory in 15 games.
"These guys just gutted it out. It's a big game on a lot of fronts," manager John McLaren said. "This is a big win. I can't overstate it. We're trying to get something going on the positive side."
Seattle, which trailed 2-0 after the first inning, matched its biggest comeback of the season. The Mariners took advantage of a pair of fielding miscues in the seventh to score two unearned runs, and kept Texas from having a chance to win in the ninth when Cairo ignited a double play.
Cairo started at first base for Richie Sexson, who missed the entire series while serving the completion of a five-game suspension after he charged the mound and flung his helmet at Texas pitcher Kason Gabbard to start a bench-clearing incident in Seattle last week. This series was completed without incident, and Sexson can play Friday.
"It's nice to help the team win," Cairo said. "That's my job. When they need me to play for someone and help out, that's what I'm ready to do."
Wladimir Balentien led off the 12th with a single off Franklyn German (1-2), and Yuniesky Betancourt sacrificed. Balentien moved to third on a deep flyout by Ichiro Suzuki, who went 0-for-6 and ended a 13-game hitting streak. Cairo then singled up the middle.
J.J. Putz (1-1), the regular closer, worked two scoreless innings before Washburn made his first relief appearance since 1999, and only his 11th in 265 games over 11 major league seasons.
"That job is securely in hand with J.J. I'm not taking his job," said Washburn, the eighth pitcher used by Seattle. "Whatever works. We needed a win right now. ... When we started going through guys, I knew it was definitely a possibility."
Washburn was listed as Friday's scheduled starter against San Diego, but McLaren said afterward that he'd already planned to skip the left-hander's turn in the rotation.
"Cairo was big in this game," McLaren said. "He came up with the big hit and started a huge double play."
After Jarrod Saltalamacchia drew a leadoff walk in the Texas ninth, Chris Shelton tried to advance him with a bunt, But Cairo fielded it and threw to Betancourt to start a 3-6-4 double play. German Duran then struck out.
Texas (20-22) clinched its sixth consecutive series by winning the first two games against Seattle, but missed the chance for its first three-game sweep of the season. The Rangers have won 13 of 19 games.
"We're still playing good baseball," Michael Young said.
David Murphy went 4-for-5 for the Rangers, including a one-out single in the 11th against Putz. But Putz escaped with two strikeouts, which sandwiched an intentional walk after he threw a wild pitch that allowed Murphy to get to second base.
Arthur Rhodes got Seattle out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh when he coaxed pinch-hitter Marlon Byrd into an inning-ending double play that kept the Mariners ahead. The big left-hander struck out Ian Kinsler, the only other batter he faced, to start the eighth but other relievers faltered around him.
Carlos Silva overcame a sluggish start to retire 17 of his last 19 batters before leaving with one out in the seventh because of tightness in his lower back. Brandon Morrow then loaded the bases by walking the only two batters he faced.
After Rhodes left, Sean Green allowed singles to his only two batters. The first was pinch-hitter Gerald Laird, who scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Josh Hamilton for his majors-best 44th RBI.
In the Seattle seventh, Jose Lopez reached on a throwing error by third baseman Ramon Vazquez. Jeff Clement then hit a flyball to center that was misplayed by Hamilton, who initially took a step in and quickly realized the ball was over his head. It rolled to the wall for Clement's first career triple, and Betancourt doubled with two outs for a 3-2 lead.
"All that did was give them the opportunity to win," manager Ron Washington said. "Physical mistakes are part of the game. We got back in it, so I don't feel like we gave the game away."
- Rangers 3B Hank Blalock, out since April 29 with a torn left hamstring, had a pregame workout on the field. "He did well," Washington said. "What I put him through today, the hamstring is fine." Blalock is scheduled to play a rehabilitation game Thursday for Double-A Frisco. He could rejoin the Rangers this weekend.
- The Rangers had three doubles in the first to take a 2-0 lead.