Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Mariners 4, Rangers 3
By Calvin Watkins
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers will say it's not a crisis, but closer Joe Nathan blew a save, his first of the young season, as the Mariners rallied for three runs in the ninth inning for a 4-3 victory Wednesday night. It's the second time this season Nathan has cost the Rangers a game, and both have come when he pitched on consecutive nights.
Here are the highlights:
What it means: You want to see what Nathan and Ron Washington have to say about this one. Nathan hasn't looked good when pitching on consecutive days and Washington doesn't want him pitching more than one inning. The Rangers might have some issues with their closer. The Rangers' pitchers had a 23-inning scoreless streak snapped in the eighth inning. Colby Lewis pitched well and deserved a better, fate but Nathan didn't close the deal.
Nathan issues: When the new closer walked to the dugout, he was greeted with boos and his head was down when he walked down the steps. Nathan allowed three runs on four hits, blowing his first save of the season. It started with a leadoff single by Justin Smoak with the Mariners down 3-1. Kyle Seager doubled down the right-field line to put runners at second and third. Jesus Montero hit a sacrifice fly to deep right to cut the Rangers' lead to one. Michael Saunders' double tied it and despite a strikeout of Brendan Ryan, Nathan failed to keep the game tied. He allowed a single to center to the No. 9 hitter John Jaso for the go-ahead run. Nathan is responsible for both Rangers' losses this season. In the first loss Saturday, he allowed a go-ahead homer in the ninth to the Chicago White Sox's Alex Rios.
Colby Lewis is dealing: Colby Lewis shut down the Mariners on Wednesday night. He gave up five hits in 6 2/3 innings of work, striking out six on 109 pitches. Nathan's blow save cost Lewis a chance to move to 2-0 for the first time since 2010. Lewis dominated the Mariners by mixing his pitches and finding different parts of the strike zone. At one point, Lewis retired 11 in a row until Saunders two-out double down the right-field line in the seventh. That hit forced Washington to take Lewis out for Alexi Ogando.
Kevin Millwood is just as good: Former Rangers ace Kevin Millwood was almost as good as Lewis in his season debut. Millwood didn't have a dominating fastball, but was efficient enough with 103 pitches to shut the Rangers down with the exception of the first. Josh Hamilton reached on a two-out double to left on a ball that just got under the glove of a charging Chone Figgins. Adrian Beltre walked and Michael Young drove in his third run of the season with a single to center. Millwood wasn't out of danger. He walked Nelson Cruz, but struck out David Murphy to end the inning.
Where are the runs? The Rangers' bats came alive, slightly, in the seventh inning. Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus hit back-to-back home runs to break open a one-run game. Kinsler hit a 1-1 belt-high fastball to left field for a 2-0 advantage and Andrus sent Steve Delabar's 3-1 pitch to left center for a 3-0 lead. When Andrus, who has just 12 career home runs, got to the dugout, Ogando squeezed his biceps. The home runs were the Rangers' first back-to-back shots of the season, and they came with two outs. The Rangers were held to just one run with Millwood on the mound and left six runners on base, including the bases loaded in the first and a runner at third in the fifth, before breaking through against the Seattle bullpen.
What's next? The Rangers finish this four-game set Thursday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. Derek Holland takes on Jason Vargas. Expect shortstop Alberto Gonzalez to make his season debut in place of Andrus. It's also the last game of the homestand as the Rangers will begin a nine-game road trip starting Friday night at Minnesota.