Texas Rangers: Jesus Montero
SEATTLE -- David Murphy and Nelson Cruz drove in the go-ahead runs off Felix Hernandez with two outs in the fifth inning, reliever Robbie Ross came up huge in the seventh and eighth behind slogging, fill-in starter Justin Grimm, then Joe Nathan finished the ninth for his 301st career save in the Texas Rangers’ 4-3 win over the Seattle Mariners on a cold Thursday night at Safeco Field.
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Murphy’s two-out, RBI single broke a 2-2 tie. Then, Cruz golfed Hernandez’s split-fingered fastball into the left-field corner for a double that put Texas ahead 4-2 in the fifth.
The Rangers’ 10 hits in Hernandez’s 6⅔ innings were more than they had off him in all of 2012. He allowed them one run and nine hits combined in two victories last season.
The 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner lost for the fifth time in seven decisions against Texas dating to the 0-4 season he had against them in 2011.
The Rangers hit Hernandez hard early by being aggressive. A.J. Pierzynski’s second home run as a Ranger, in the second inning, was on the at-bat's first pitch. Mitch Moreland drove the next pitch on a line to deep left field, where Raul Ibanez misplayed it for an error. And Elvis Andrus’ single that scored Moreland came on an 0-1 pitch. Texas had batted around just 1⅓ innings into the game.
Preserving Ross: The Rangers’ left-hander struck out Ibanez with the bases loaded on what appeared to be a slider at 86 miles per hour to end the seventh and keep Texas ahead 4-2. Ross allowed a bloop single by former Rangers’ No. 1 draft pick Justin Smoak, then a bloop double down the same right-field line by Jesus Montero to begin the bottom of the eighth.
After Robert Andino’s RBI ground out made it 4-3, Ross charged off the mound, fielded Brendan Ryan’s suicide squeeze on the run and flipped it option quarterback-style to Pierzynski in one motion. The catcher tagged out pinch runner Endy Chavez for the second out. Ross then struck out Franklin Gutierrez with a man on to end the threat.
Still buds: Adrian Beltre, who won two Gold Gloves as the Mariners’ third baseman from 2005-09, was the first Ranger to swing at a first pitch from Hernandez, four batters into the game. He lined it off third baseman Kyle Seager’s glove for an infield single. After Murphy struck out to end the first inning, Beltre and Hernandez laughed together in the infield grass before the Ranger playfully cuffed the back of the Seattle ace’s head. Hernandez and Ibanez are the only Mariners who were teammates with Beltre in Seattle.
Have we met? Pierzynski and other Rangers yukked it up from the on-deck circle throughout the game with Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. The two defensive backs were sitting in the first row of box seats just to the right of the visiting dugout, wearing matching Mariners game jerseys with their names and NFL uniform numbers.
Up next: Yu Darvish (2-0, 1.98 ERA) says the blister that cut his last start short after five innings is fine to start Friday against Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma. It’s the 10th major league game started by pitchers born in Japan. First pitch is at 9:10 p.m. on TXA21 and 660 AM.
With the help of his sinker and some nice defensive plays, that’s exactly what Harrison was able to do Sunday against the Seattle Mariners.
He had trouble with his command in the first two innings. Harrison gave up two walks and singles in that span, but his defense was able to bail him out each time.
With two on and two outs in the first, shortstop Elvis Andrus fielded Justin Smoak’s ground ball to end the inning. Put in the same situation in the second following a walk to Chone Figgins, who’s batting .185 this season, Harrison was bailed out by second baseman Ian Kinsler. Brendan Ryan hit a line drive right at Kinsler.
“I owe a lot of the game to them,” Harrison said. “Every ball put in play, they made the play.”
Harrison retired six straight batters in the third and fourth on ground balls and fly balls, but he found himself in trouble again in the fifth.
With Michael Saunders on with a leadoff single, third baseman Adrian Beltre made a great catch on a Figgins line drive and threw to first for the double play. It was one of many hard-hit ground balls Beltre fielded cleanly for Harrison.
“I was praying he had a cup on because the way he was catching some of them, I was worried there,” Harrison said.
Beltre’s gold glove came in handy in the seventh to help extend Harrison’s outing. He fielded his second double play in the seventh on a ground ball from Ryan. Kinsler turned the throw from second to Michael Young at first to end the threat with runners at first and second.
“He’s a guy that pounds the strike zone and throws a lot of sinkers and cutters,” Beltre said. “We know we’re going to have a busy day when he’s throwing, which is good. He’s the type of guy you want out there keeping you on your toes.”
Closer Joe Nathan was active in the bullpen, but he stopped throwing and soon sat down during Harrison’s 12-pitch eighth inning. Ichiro Suzuki grounded out on two pitches, which paved the way for Harrison’s second strikeout -- a six-pitch at-bat against Casper Wells. Jesus Montero flied out to deep center field but fell short in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks.
“You’re going to get away with a few more mistakes than you would at our place,” Harrison said. “The biggest thing here is getting ahead of guys and make them swing the bats. ... It definitely works to your advantage when you have a park like that when you can go out and throw strikes and make them put the ball in play.”
Harrison topped his eighth inning performance with a seven-pitch ninth. In an ironic ending to a game where he only collected three strikeouts, he ended the with a strikeout of Miguel Olivo.
“That’s something we have to learn as a staff is to put innings away,” Washington said. “He kept trusting what he was doing and he worked around some things and finished the ballgame.”
Harrison's won eight consecutive starts against the Mariners dating back to May 1, 2010, which is the third longest consecutive winning streak against an opponent in club history. His 12th win is tied for the most in baseball and he has a 2.87 ERA.
“It’s a good start for the second half for me and I hope to continue building on that,” Harrison said.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- After just six games, closer Joe Nathan has a loss and a blown save on his ledger for the Texas Rangers.
Nathan had a terrible ninth inning Wednesday night, allowing three runs in blowing a two-run lead in a 4-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners.
The loss and the blown save comes with Nathan pitching on consecutive days.
Manager Ron Washington said he's not concerned about his new closer.
"I thought he was throwing the ball well," Washington said. "Once again, maybe location just had something to do with it. I thought he was throwing the ball well. It was 93, 94 mph. It’s a big league club over there. I don’t know how many innings we had them shut down, but right there in the ninth inning they put some runs on the board."
Nathan was beaten by his slider, a pitch he didn't get low enough in key situations.
With the Rangers leading 3-1, Nathan gave up a leadoff single to Justin Smoak to start the ninth inning. Nathan threw three straight sliders to Kyle Seager, and the third one was stroked for a double to right field. Jesus Montero drove a fastball to right for a sacrifice fly.
Then came Michael Saunders, who hit a slider for a double to center to tie the game at 3.
"Slider, another slider down," Nathan said. "Like I said, maybe not down enough. But a lot of those pitchers were sliders down that they served into right and found outfield turf. Give credit to them for putting good swings on [it]. I tried to mix in and away sliders and curveballs. To me it just didn’t look like they weren’t getting off the slider. So in that situation, I got to be more fine if I'm going to go to that pitch."
Nathan stuck with the slider again and struck out the next batter, Brendan Ryan, but his curveball to John Jaso was hit to center to drive in the go-ahead run.
Nathan said he felt good physically and thought he didn't throw many bad pitches, but that he wished some of his pitches were lower in the strike zone.
"Felt great, everything felt really good, four out of six [games] now," Nathan said. "I felt really strong tonight. I felt like I had a good fastball, curveball, finally mixed that in, and that felt good throwing strikes with that. l think it was maybe a fraction off with the slider, and even though they were decent pitches I'm going to go back and take a look and make sure they were where I thought they were. They were down, but not down enough. Give credit to them for putting good swings on the baseball and keep that train moving."
It was Nathan's first blown save since July 9, 2001 when he pitched for Minnesota. Nathan saved 11 consecutive games after that for the Twins.
But Wednesday's blown save for the Rangers gives more negative things for fans to talk about, and they let him hear it with boos when he left the mound after the top of inning was over.
"This is what the end of the game [is] when you don’t have good nights," he said. "There's a chance you’re going to have an L next to your name, so it comes with the territory. You get either the S or the L. Our guys battled though and almost tied it in the bottom half and obviously continued to battle."
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