Short-handed Rangers drop opener in Seattle

Short-handed Rangers drop opener in Seattle

Short-handed Rangers drop opener in Seattle
SEATTLE -- A night after moving to a season-best 29 games over .500 with back-to-back wins in Anaheim, the Rangers found themselves short-handed and on the short end of the scoreboard Friday.

Playing without third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Josh Hamilton, both dealing with medical issues, the Rangers weren't able to break through against Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma and came up short, 6-3, in Safeco Field.

The night wasn't a total loss for the Rangers. The second-place A's lost, too, moving Texas one game closer to another American League West title.

And Scott Feldman, a starter who has been struggling, found himself putting in three innings' worth of work out of the bullpen with considerable success. Feldman struck out five, allowed just one hit and didn't walk anyone in relief of lefty Martin Perez.

A week ago, it was Feldman who was starting and Perez who was working in relief. But after going just 2 2/3 innings against the Mariners in Arlington to cap a seven-game stretch in which he was 0-5 with a 6.99 ERA, Feldman stepped aside and roles were reversed.

It may be just as well, because Feldman is destined for life in the bullpen come the playoffs. And if he can command the strike zone the way he did Friday, that will be a major asset for manager Ron Washington's squad.

"I felt fine out there tonight," Feldman said. "This can be a tough place to warm up and get loose, but I did OK.

"Obviously there is a different mindset when you go out there in the middle of a game as opposed to starting, but you've got to try to get guys out either way. That doesn't change."

Playing without Beltre and Hamilton proved costly for the Rangers. Michael Young, playing third base in place of Beltre, booted a grounder that led to a run in the fourth inning.

"I've got to make that play," Young said. "[Franklin Gutierrez] hit it hard, but I've got to make that play."

Washington took it a step further, saying "if Young makes that one, we're still playing."

Even so, it wasn't all about the defense. As left fielder David Murphy put it, "without those two guys, we're missing 70-odd homers and about 200 RBIs, so you notice it."

Murphy tried to make up for it as best he could with a double, a two-run single in the fourth that tied the game at 2 and a solo homer that got the Rangers within a run at 4-3 against Iwakuma. Unfortunately for Texas, Murphy was the only Ranger who seemed to have Iwakuma's number.

"This was a good one personally, but unfortunately not for the team," Murphy said.

He spoke longingly of the eighth inning, when Alexi Ogando hung a slider that Seattle catcher Miguel Olivo cranked out for his 12th homer, a two-run shot that gave the Mariners' a three-run cushion entering the ninth.

"It would have been nice to see if it was still 4-3 in the top of the ninth," Murphy said, noting that the Rangers had the 4-5-6 spots due up.

And it still could have been nice for Texas, with Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen stung by a Nelson Cruz single and Murphy reaching on an error by third baseman Alex Liddi. But Wilhelmsen came back to induce a double-play grounder from Geovany Soto before Mitch Moreland struck out.

"I don't put any more weight on this one than on any of the other 60-some that we've lost" Washington said. "We were in the game all the way and had a chance to win at the end. That's all you can ask.

"The kid [Perez] didn't have great stuff, but he battled and he kept us in the game, which is what you need from your starting pitcher and what I wanted to see from him. That's why he was out there."

John Hickey is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.