Every Ranger starter recorded a hit Saturday night, but it was the bottom of the lineup came up big in a 6-3 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field.
A sacrifice fly from Mitch Moreland, the sixth hitter in the Rangers’ lineup, provided the go-ahead run in the eighth inning. A ninth-inning rally started with a single from no. 8 hitter Leonys Martin, who would later scamper home on a passed ball that snuck just beyond Mike Zunino for an insurance run.
Prince Fielder added the sixth and final run with an RBI single in the ninth.
The six-through-nine hitters, though, were largely responsible for a three-run fifth inning.
After four dominant innings from Felix Hernandez, the Ranger bats got to him in the fifth. The first five batters reached base, and the Rangers tallied four singles, a bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly to plate three runs and tie the score at three apiece.
Hernandez’s walk of Robinson Chirinos with the bases loaded that scored the first run in the fifth was just the third bases-loaded walk Hernandez has issued in his career. He had faced 136 batters with the bases juiced entering Saturday’s game.
The only hit Hernandez allowed outside of the fourth inning was a ground ball from Alex Rios that was originally ruled a fielder’s choice and an error, but was changed to an infield single. King Felix walked three hitters and struck out four.
Rangers starter Colby Lewis threw 5+ innings, pitching one batter into the sixth inning (a walk of Justin Smoak) on 91 pitches.
The long ball hurt Lewis early. Michael Saunders led off the game with a solo home run to center field, and Kyle Seager found the right field seats to lead off the second.
Lewis had allowed just 1.3 home runs per nine innings in his last three seasons with Texas.
But what defined the outing for Lewis was his ability to minimize damage. Home runs aren’t a positive for a pitcher, but the best time to allow them is with the bases empty. When the Mariners did get runners in scoring position, Lewis was able to shut it down.
Seattle loaded the bases against Lewis in the fourth but only came away with one run on a Mike Zunino sacrifice fly. Singles from Smoak and Seager and a walk to Dustin Ackley loaded the bases before Zunino brought home the third Mariner run.
Robinson Cano singled and stole second with one out in the fifth, but Lewis struck out Corey Hart and got Seager, a .315 career hitter against Texas, to line out to left field. Manager Ron Washington made a visit to the mound before Seager’s at-bat, but Lewis stayed in the game.
The Rangers missed an early scoring chance when they had runners at second and third via the walk with one out in the second inning against Hernandez, but Donnie Murphy and Martin each struck out on curveballs in the dirt to end the scoring threat.
Left-handed relief has become a bit of a question mark for the club, but it was a strength Saturday night. Aaron Poreda threw two strong innings of relief, then turned it over to Neal Cotts for the first two outs of the eighth. Alexi Ogando recorded one out on six pitches before Joakim Soria nailed down the save with a perfect ninth inning.
The rubber match is slated for a matinee first pitch at 3:10 p.m. CST. Matt Harrison is scheduled to make his 2014 debut in that game.