Mariners earn series split with Rangers

Scott Johnson, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SEATTLE -- The Texas Rangers ran out of two-out rallies Sunday, when they failed to finish off a series victory for the first time this season.
The Rangers scored three two-out runs but had to settle for a series split after leaving three runners on base in the final three innings of a 4-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners. It marked the first time that Texas (8-5) has not won the series in its four series this season.
Seattle's Kyle Seager, Jesus Montero and Dustin Ackley strung together consecutive one-out hits in the sixth inning, when the Mariners scored two runs to take a 4-3 lead. Texas stranded runners in scoring position in the seventh and eighth innings before Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen finished the Rangers off with a perfect ninth for his fifth save of the season.
"You never want to lose a series, especially at home," Seager said after going 2-for-4 with two doubles. "We got behind there, but it's good to get out of here with a split."
Mariners rookie starter Brandon Maurer, who was pulled in the first inning of his previous start, had a better performance Sunday while earning his first major-league win. The right-hander with the newly sculpted goatee looked like a different pitcher this time out, allowing five hits and three runs (two earned) over six innings.
"It was good to get a good team win today," Maurer said Sunday, five days after giving up seven hits and six runs in 2/3 of an inning against Houston. "The best is that it's my dad's birthday. Pretty good timing."
Maurer's day could have been even better had it not been for the Rangers' ability to score with two outs. Mitch Moreland gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead with a two-out, RBI single in the second, then Texas added two more two-out runs on a Lance Berkman single and a passed ball for a 3-2 lead in the fifth.
Texas has now scored 21 two-out runs in a span of 10 games, accounting for 63.6 percent of the team's offense during that span.
The Rangers staged their first two-out rally in the second, when Moreland followed a Geovany Soto single with an RBI double to right-center field for a 1-0 lead. Seattle tied the score 1-1 in the bottom of that inning, on back-to-back doubles from Justin Smoak and Seager.
A Raul Ibanez solo home run in the fourth gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead before the Texas produced two more two-out runs in the fifth. After Leury Garcia was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a grounder to second base for the second out, Berkman tied the score with an RBI single. Craig Gentry then scored the go-ahead run from third on a Montero passed ball, giving the Rangers a 3-2 lead.
Montero tied the score with a one-out, RBI single in the bottom of the sixth and gave Seattle a 4-3 lead while scoring from second base on Ackley's single one batter later.
Texas starter Nick Tepesch, who was making his second start, was solid through five innings but couldn't match the magic of his major-league debut last week. Tepesch allowed nine hits and four runs over 5 2/3 innings Sunday, and he left with Texas trailing 4-3.
"I thought he was pretty good again today," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "The Mariners battled in their at-bats and found some holes. They hit some good pitches. ... The bottom line is, (Tepesch) kept us in the ballgame to give us a chance. We just didn't get the hit when we needed it."
The Rangers drew a leadoff walk in the seventh, then Garcia moved Moreland to second with a sacrifice bunt. Stephon Pryor came on in relief and struck out two consecutive batters, ending the inning with Moreland stranded on second.
In the top of the eighth, the Rangers threatened again when Adrian Beltre drew a walk and moved to third on David Murphy's two-out single. But reliever Oliver Perez got Soto to fly out to right field on a 3-2 pitch to end that threat.
"The power of that team, you have to be careful," Perez said.
Wilhelmsen made sure there wasn't any more drama in the ninth. He got Moreland to fly out to center and struck out Garcia before Elvis Andrus lined out to second base to end the game.
The Rangers had six hits and went 1-for-12 over the final four innings Sunday.
"Pitching and defense are keeping us in ballgames," Washington said. "I know we're going to start hitting soon."
NOTES: Rangers Opening Day starter Matt Harrison, who is currently on the 15-day disabled list, underwent a second epidural on his injured back. While there is no set timetable for his return, the procedure could delay his return. ... The Mariners get their first off day of the season Monday, making them the last team in baseball to get a break. Seattle has played 14 consecutive days to open the season. ... Pryor came out of the game in the eighth inning with a strained right lat muscle. He will be further evaluated Monday.