ARLINGTON (AP) – Alexi Ogando punched his glove and bounced off the mound, punctuating the last out the right-hander would get in a nearly flawless first major league start for the Texas Rangers.
Ogando pitched six scoreless innings and Texas remained undefeated with a 3-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night in a matchup of first-time major league starters.
“I think you’ve seen two coming stars,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “You saw well-pitched games on both sides.”
Defending American League champion Texas improved to 5-0, its best start since winning the first seven games in 1996. The Rangers are the first team in the majors to five wins — the only other undefeated teams are Baltimore (4-0) and Cincinnati (4-0).
A standout reliever last season, Ogando (1-0) allowed only two hits and struck out four, the last being Jack Cust for his final out despite a developing blister on his index finger.
Michael Pineda (0-1) struck out four and walked one in his major league debut. He gave up five hits, four of them for extra bases. None of them were home runs by the Rangers, who hit 13 balls out of the park their first four games.
“He was poised out there,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He should feel real good about it, the way he pitched, the way he controlled the game. We couldn’t have asked for a better outing.”
The 22-year-old Pineda became the first Seattle pitcher to make his major league debut in a start since Felix Hernandez on Aug. 4, 2005. Pineda, the first Mariners rookie to be in the opening day rotation since Freddy Garcia in 1999, stuck out four and walked one.
Nelson Cruz, who had homered in each of the Rangers’ first four games, drew a two-out walk in the second and scored on a standup triple by Mitch Moreland.
Josh Hamilton, the reigning AL MVP, had a run-scoring double in the sixth and scored what proved to be the deciding run on a double by Michael Young.
Center fielder Julio Borbon made a diving, runs-saving catch to end the seventh after the Mariners had already scored twice against a pair of relievers and had the bases loaded. The ball hit by Milton Bradley was slicing away from Borbon when he fully extended his body to catch it inches off the ground.
Neftali Feliz worked a perfect ninth for his second save in two chances.
Ogando is a converted outfielder who excelled out of the bullpen last season, when he was 4-1 with a 1.30 ERA in 44 appearances before pitching in five postseason games. The 27-year-old right-hander made three starts last summer for Double-A Frisco, but his other 56 minor league appearances were as a reliever.
The Rangers planned to keep Ogando in the bullpen this season, but Tommy Hunter strained his right groin the last week of spring training in Arizona — on the same day he was told he was in the starting rotation. Plus, former NL Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb isn’t ready yet in his comeback from shoulder surgery that has kept him from pitching in the majors since the 2009 opener for Arizona.
After a two-out walk to Bradley in the sixth, Ogando got a visit from pitching coaching Mike Maddux. A trainer was then summoned to check a smaller blister on Ogando’s index finger, but the hard thrower smiled and stayed in the game.
Ogando then struck out Jack Cust, and the usually stoic pitcher pounded his fist into his glove.
“I had to get the last out. … I asked them to let me finish the inning,” Ogando said. “They always ask me that question about how I look so calm on the mound. My mother, she is really calm, too quiet. Maybe I got it from her.”
Ogando was an outfielder in Oakland’s organization before being acquired by Texas in the Rule 5 draft in 2005. But he wasn’t allowed into the United States from the Dominican Republic until last year because of visa problems related to marriage fraud and a human trafficking ring involving several Dominican players.
Mark Lowe, traded with Cliff Lee from Seattle to Texas last summer, relieved Ogando to start the seventh. After getting a grounder from Justin Smoak, the first baseman the Mariners got in that deal, Lowe gave up three consecutive singles.
Jack Wilson’s RBI single made it 3-1 before 40-year-old Darren Oliver gave up an RBI single to Michael Saunders and Ichiro Suzuki reached on an error by second baseman Ian Kinsler.
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