Long before the closing bell Friday night, Texas was earning dividends. The Rangers scored six runs in the fifth inning, their most productive of the young season, and rode another authoritative Yu Darvish pitching performance to a 7-0 victory.
Darvish tossed seven scoreless innings, striking out 10, and Texas tied its largest margin of victory this season.
It was a needed boost for a club that failed to put a runner in scoring position in being shut out by the Cubs the day before. The Rangers' offense had been languishing even before that.
Coming into Friday's game, the Rangers had scored only 55 runs, the fourth-fewest in the American League. With an average of 3.67 runs per game, Texas ranked 22nd in the Major Leagues prior to Friday. (By comparison, the Rangers' 4.96 runs per game in 2012 were the most in the Majors.)
"We haven't been really performing offensively like we feel we can," said center fielder Craig Gentry, who was 2-for-4 with a double in the second and a key two-run triple in the big fifth inning Friday. "I feel like that inning showed what we can do. We brought our bats out a little bit today."
Gentry's stand-up triple and A.J. Pierzynski's bloop two-run single were the highlights of the fifth.
Berkman got things started with a one-out single up the middle. Adrian Beltre walked and Nelson Cruz singled to load the bases. Pierzynski looped a ball in front of Seattle left fielder Raul Ibanez, bringing home Berkman and Beltre, and Jeff Baker walked. Cruz scored on a David Murphy groundout before Gentry drove a ball deep to the gap in left-center field. It got past Ibanez, Pierzynski and Baker scored, and the speedy Gentry might have had a chance for an inside-the-park home run had he gotten the go sign from third-base coach Gary Pettis.
"We'll never know," Gentry joked.
Ian Kinsler doubled Gentry home for the game's final run.
The Rangers' offense was far more than Darvish needed to earn his third victory in four starts this season. He allowed only three hits, but walked three. He put three runners on base in the first two innings, but retired eight of the final nine he faced.
Darvish spent most of his night pitching with a tenuous one-run lead. Baker's solo home run in the second inning was the game's only run until the fifth.
Darvish labored at times with his command, pushing his pitch count to 111. But he recovered when he needed to and became the fifth Rangers pitcher to strike out at least 10 batters in 10 games.
"He's been asserting himself for quite awhile now -- even when he felt that maybe he wasn't performing the way he should, the results were still being gotten," manager Ron Washington said. "That's what good pitchers do. Tonight was no different than what I've been seeing. Yes, he's been a little erratic every now and then, an inning here, an inning there, but he's always found a way to get through his innings. That's what you like to see."
Pitching on six days' rest after he lost 3-1 to Seattle last Friday, Darvish looked different to the Mariners this time.
"You saw all the breaking balls he threw last time," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "I think he used his fastball more effectively and still used his breaking ball good. He had better command. He pitched a good ballgame."
Mariners starter Joe Saunders, who lost to Texas in his previous start, lost again with a 4 2/3-inning, nine-hit, three-walk, zero-strikeout outing. He left after Gentry's triple.
Having scored more runs in a single inning than in any of their previous seven games, the Rangers still have work to do offensively, but they hope Friday's outburst can spark the offense.
"I think we all want to get it going earlier," Kinsler said. "The fifth inning, we'll take it, but as an offense we want to make sure that we're focused on the game every at-bat, every inning and make sure we're pounding guys from the get-go."