The Rangers used the classic formula of clutch hitting and solid pitching to win Monday's opener against the Mariners. That blueprint may need to be cast aside tonight if Scott Feldman's struggles continue.
Feldman takes aim at his first victory of the season as Texas plays the second of three straight games versus visiting Seattle.
The right-handed Feldman came into the season as Texas' longman in the bullpen, but has made three starts in addition to his five relief outings this season.
Each of Feldman's first two starts were made necessary due to the Rangers needing an extra arm following doubleheaders, but the 29-year-old was put into the rotation last week due to Neftali Feliz going on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation.
Feldman faced these same Mariners on Wednesday, but struggled in a loss as he allowed five runs on three hits and five walks over 4 1/3 innings. He walked the bases loaded in the second, but gave up only a sacrifice fly, but then had his outing end after serving up a grand slam to Alex Liddi in the fifth inning.
"He pitched around the three walks in the second inning and got out with minimal damage. He made one bad pitch and it cost him," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Feldman's outing.
Feldman is 0-2 with a 4.66 earned run average this season and will make the 11th start of his career versus the Mariners in addition to his relief work against them. In those 10 starts, he is 3-4 with a 4.03 ERA with three straight setbacks.
The Rangers got eight innings of two-run ball from Matt Harrison in Monday's opener and he was made the winner thanks to Mike Napoli's three-run homer in the sixth inning. Harrison scattered seven hits and struck out five without a walk, leading Texas to its fourth straight victory.
"I think it all starts with starting pitching. If you can get quality starting pitching, it makes it that much easier on everyone else," Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "It kind of relaxes everyone and just makes the other aspects of the game easier."
Nelson Cruz added a solo homer and Joe Nathan tossed a scoreless ninth to earn his 11th save of the season as first-place Texas leads the Los Angeles Angels by 6 1/2 games in the American League West. Seattle is 11 games back.
The Rangers worked Mariners starter Kevin Millwood, who needed 97 pitches to get through five innings. He allowed a run on four hits and two walks and Steve Delabar took the loss in relief.
Jesus Montero had two hits and an RBI for the Mariners, who dropped their fifth straight and have been outscored 22-11 in that span.
"These guys are going to have to dig deep and find a way to put into play what we want them to do offensively," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "We've talked to them about it and I think they have a good understanding of what they need to do. But to ensure that it translates into games, that's what we're not seeing."
The Mariners hope that Jason Vargas can avoid losing two straight games for the first time this season in tonight's start.
The left-hander lost to the Angels on Thursday, charged with three runs on seven hits over seven frames of a 3-0 defeat. He did not walk a batter and struck out six, but still fell to 5-4 with a 3.39 earned run average in 11 starts.
Vargas has been very consistent for Seattle, hurling seven quality starts and going six or more innings in 10 of his 11 outings.
The 29-year-old is 3-5 with a 4.62 ERA in 12 games (10 starts) lifetime versus the Rangers and that includes a loss in Texas on April 12. Vargas allowed four runs over 6 2/3 innings, giving up a two-run homer to Michael Young in the fifth inning. He fell to 1-3 with a 4.70 ERA in seven games at Rangers Ballpark.
The Rangers have won 16 of their past 21 versus the Mariners, including five of eight encounters this season. Seattle has dropped 13 of its past 15 in Texas.