Four first-inning runs proved the Seattle Mariners could score against a team not named the Athletics.
Their problem was the Texas offense proved to be considerably tougher than Oakland’s – and Yu Darvish survived one tough big-league debut to get the victory as Texas beat Seattle, 11-5.
Against some teams, leads of 4-0 and 5-2 might mean something.
The Rangers aren’t one of those teams, and they humbled Hector Noesi, who couldn’t hold either lead and gave up seven runs in three innings.
Cast the Mariners shell-shocked.
“I thought we were maybe one run away from getting him out of there in the first inning, but we didn’t get it,” manager Eric Wedge said.
Seattle might have knocked Japan’s free agent Darvish out but didn’t largely because with only one out and the bases loaded, Brendan Ryan struck out and Chone Figgins grounded out to end the threat.
From there, Darvish pitched like the right-hander Texas saw all spring – and the Mariners collapsed.
Shortstop Ryan had a tough night at the plate – 0-for-3 and one hit by pitch – and a tougher one in the field.
As Noesi tried to protect a 4-0 first-inning lead, he got a tailor-made double-play ground ball to second baseman Munenori Kawasaki that should have ended the inning.
Instead, Ryan took a fine feed from Kawasaki but sailed his throw wide of first base, pulling Justin Smoak off the bag.
Before Noesi could get the third out, two Texas runs scored and it was 4-2.
“I’ve made that play a million times, this time I just pulled the throw,” Ryan said. “It was a bad throw. You hope the next guy pops one up, but it never works out that way.
“You can’t give away outs against anybody, but especially not against these guys.”
If Darvish opened the game nervous, he managed to adjust. Noesi did not. Given a 4-0 lead, Noesi walked the first two Rangers he faced – starting a rally all by himself.
Tied after three innings when he left a fastball over the plate and Nelson Cruz turned it into a three-run home run, Noesi faced two batters in the fourth inning.
He walked Mike Napoli, then gave up a long home run to Mitch Moreland that made it 7-5, Rangers.
That was that.
“I was missing my spots, but I wasn’t nervous,” Noesi said.
Darvish and the Texas bullpen dug in, and while the Mariners put up 11 hits, they never scored after the second inning. Kyle Seager had three, and a season-high three RBI. Ichiro Suzuki had three more and scored twice.
The Rangers? That relentless attack that has pushed them to a pair of World Series appearances in the past two years just kept hammering away – a solo home run from Josh Hamilton, a three-run home run late by Ian Kinsler off George Sherrill.
By night’s end, Seattle’s five runs looked downright puny. The Mariners thought they should have had more.
“I’m up there with the bases loaded and one out in the first inning, I’ve got to at least get the ball to the outfield, get another run home,” Ryan said. “You have to make them pay when you have the chance, and I just didn’t.”
Eric Wedge defended his hitters, saying they’d put up better at-bats than the team had seen last year. He wasn’t nearly as pleased with the defense – especially in the first inning.
“We’re up by four and the double play gets us out of the inning with Noesi ahead, 4-0,” Wedge said. “Brendan has to make that play. Not making it shifted the momentum of the game.”
If Noesi stumbled, rookie reliever Erasmo Ramirez held Texas to one run – a solo homer – in three innings, and fellow rookie Steve Delabar got two outs without allowing a run.
That got the game to the eighth inning 8-5, still within reach.
Left-hander George Sherrill couldn’t hold it there. Kinsler hit the Rangers’ fourth home run of the night, a three-run shot, and this one was over.
In the end, many of the questions asked of the Mariners were about Darvish.
“I think he felt very comfortable on the mound,” infielder Munenori Kawasaki said. “He looked really good.”
Ichiro was a bit more candid after Darvish lasted 52/3 innings, allowed eight hits, five runs, two walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch.
“My impression of him was good in general. When he came out of the game in the sixth inning and tipped his cap, you could see he wasn’t pleased with himself,” Ichiro said.
“I thought that showed pride, and that’s what I liked most about him tonight.”