Miles Mikolas has been around the major leagues before, and since July 2 has been a mainstay in the Texas Rangers’ patchwork starting rotation.
Tomas Telis had never been inside a major league clubhouse until Monday at Safeco Field, and around five or six hours after his arrival from the team hotel, he was a big league starter for the first time.
Telis, with an enormous assist from Mikolas, couldn’t have started his career much better. He caught a shutout.
Mikolas scattered three singles in eight scoreless innings, and Telis was behind the plate for all nine innings of the Rangers’ 16th shutout of the season, 2-0 against Seattle.
“Before the game I told him, ‘Hey, let’s just go out there and have some fun,’ ” Mikolas said. “I’m a rookie, too. I’ve never pitched against this team before. We were both kind of in the same boat. I think we used that to bond a little bit. It was nice.”
The Rangers have won consecutive games for only the second time since the All-Star break and have done it against two playoff contenders. Neftali Feliz has recorded saves in consecutive regular-season games for the first time since Sept. 17-18, 2011.
The Rangers scored runs in the fourth, on an RBI single by J.P. Arencibia, and the seventh on a groundout by Rougned Odor in an inning that started with an infield single by Leonys Martin and a throwing error by Robinson Cano.
But Mikolas’ pitching was the biggest story. Facing a Mariners team that entered with the lead for the second wild-card spot, Mikolas allowed only three singles and saw only one runner reach second base.
Logan Morrison had a two-out single in the second and moved up 90 feet after a four-pitch walk to Mike Zunino. Seattle’s other two hits were leadoff singles by Cano in the fourth and Morrison in the eighth, but each time Mikolas got the next batter to ground into a double play.
The first-pitch fastball he threw Zunino might have been his best pitch of the game after Morrison had singled on a 1-2 hanging slider that rated as his worst offering.
“It was a two-seamer running in on him,” said Mikolas, who has a 2.63 ERA in six road starts but a 13.73 ERA in four starts at Globe Life Park. “The best pitch to get a ground ball is the sinker. We had great defense tonight.”
Mikolas (2-5) had thrown only 92 pitches in his eight innings, but Feliz was the choice for the ninth. Denton native Austin Jackson reached on a one-out single, but Feliz got Dustin Ackley on a liner to right field and Cano on a liner to center.
The Cano out came on a changeup called by Telis after five straight fastballs.
“We threw a lot of fastballs, and I wanted to change up something,” said Telis, who collected a bunt hit for his first career hit as the batter before Odor in the seventh. “I felt a little bit nervous in the first inning, but after that I felt good.”
He had every reason to feel good. So did Mikolas, who said that he has learned the difference between throwing strikes and throwing quality strikes as he continues to audition for the 2015 rotation.
His performance Monday rates as a step forward.
“You’ve really got to hit your spots up here,” Mikolas said. “Guys make a living hitting mistakes, so you want to make as few of those as possible.”