Nicholas helps guide Lewis' gem in MLB debut

'Hats off to Brett, he did a great job,' Rangers starter says

Nicholas helps guide Lewis' gem in MLB debut

SEATTLE -- Rangers catcher Brett Nicholas didn't have the eye-catching Major League debut Monday that Nomar Mazara had on Sunday. After all, he had just one double and a single compared to Mazara's two singles and home run.

Where Nicholas stood out was behind the plate in his work with Rangers starter Colby Lewis and four relievers in a 7-3 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field. That's the No. 1 job for Rangers catchers and Nicholas received high marks while playing in front of his family, including his 92-year-old grandfather.

"It was special, but most importantly the team won," Nicholas said. "Those guys are really good at home, so to be able to get a couple of knocks and help the ballclub win was special."

Afterwards, Nicholas, grandpa Frank McCabe and many other relatives gathered on the field for a few family photos and bask in the glow of a great night.

"It just says a lot about our player-development system that these players come up and are ready," manager Jeff Banister said. "They are into the game and they are not overwhelmed. It was another fun night for me. It's fun to be a big league manager and watch these kids."

Nicholas was called up on Sunday when Robinson Chirinos went on the disabled list with a broken right forearm and worked well with Lewis on Monday night. Lewis, facing the Mariners for the second straight start, allowed just one run on four hits and a walk while striking out six innings.

"Hats off to Brett, he did a great job," Lewis said. "After the first inning, I sat down with him, told him what I wanted to do and we stuck with it. We wanted to go fastball heavy because five days ago we faced these guys and threw a lot of off-speed stuff. We felt the fastball would be a big player and it was."

Nicholas also had a key defensive play in the first inning, throwing out Norichika Aoki trying to steal after he had led off with a single. That helped stave off a potentially big inning for the Mariners. As it was, they scored their only run off Lewis on a one-out walk to Kyle Seager and a two-out double by Nelson Cruz.

"That helped out huge, throwing Aoki out like that," Lewis said.

Nicholas nabs Aoki

Lewis struck out Adam Lind to end the inning, which started a run of retiring 13 straight hitters, including six by strikeout. The streak ended in the sixth when Leonys Martin reached on a grounder to first baseman Mitch Moreland as Lewis did not get over to cover the bag.

A one-out single by Seager put runners on first and second, but Lewis retired Robinson Cano and Cruz on fly balls to end the inning.

"We found a few things that worked and didn't deviate from it," Nicholas said. "We had a plan and stuck with it. He was just cruising. I was just making sure I caught the ball and threw it back so he could keep it going."

The tightest moment for Rangers pitchers came in the seventh after Lewis left the game. Andrew Faulkner took over and the Mariners got a rally going on a one-out single by Franklin Gutierrez and a walk to Chris Iannetta.

Sam Dyson took over and struck out Ketel Marte. An infield single by Martin loaded the bases but Dyson got Aoki on a grounder to first to end the inning.

The offense was still important. The Rangers led, 3-1, going into the seventh when Nicholas led off with a double and later scored on a two-out single by Fielder. Nicholas also had a single in the middle of the Rangers' three-run eighth.

"The question if you are a backup catcher is you've got to make sure these pitchers don't skip a beat," Nicholas said. "Two hits are the cherry on the top, but the most important thing is to make sure you get these guys through the game."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.