The Texas Rangers aren’t doing enough at the plate to take an at-bat off or to choose not to take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself, especially when their hit-and-miss pitching staff is doing its job.
Such were the circumstances Friday night at Safeco Field, where Yovani Gallardo pitched his best game since joining the Rangers and the bullpen was clinging to a narrow lead over the Seattle Mariners.
Some late-game insurance would have gone a long way after defense helped keep the Rangers in the lead, and catcher Robinson Chirinos provided it in an unlikely way for a major-league catcher. He used his legs.
Chirinos, who homered to start the fifth inning, produced the Rangers’ final run in a 3-1 victory with his hustle. That extra tally in the ninth inning gave Neftali Feliz some cushion, and helped the Rangers win a series opener for the first time this season.
“I can say enough about Chirinos,” manager Jeff Banister said.
Prince Fielder doubled in Leonys Martin in the first inning for the game’s first run, and Chirinos made it 2-0 with his blast to center field off of J.A. Happ. After a narrow escape in the seventh by Shawn Tolleson in relief of Gallardo, the Rangers finally surrendered a run when Tanner Scheppers yielded a Seth Smith sacrifice fly in the eighth.
It looked as if the Rangers would wasted a leadoff walk by Shin-Soo Choo in the ninth as Chirinos’ grounded to shortstop to start a 6-4-3 double play. Banister, though, challenged the call at first, and replay showed that Chirinos had beaten the throw.
Chirinos took advantage, taking second on a wild pitch during the next at-bat and advancing to third on a throwing error by catcher Mike Zunino. After Odor popped to center, Adam Rosales’ chopper to third hit the bag and bounded away from Kyle Seager.
Chirinos scored for a two-run advantage that Feliz protected with some help from Choo, who jumped at the right-field wall to take extra bases from Logan Morrison.
Choo’s gem was one of many fine defensive plays by the Rangers. The biggest was one of three double plays turned behind Gallardo as Smith hit a grounder to Odor with the bases loaded and one out in the third. Odor fumbled it right to shortstop Elvis Andrus, who calmly picked up the ball while standing on second base and threw to first.
Rosales got into the act in the seventh, diving in the hole between first and second to take a hit away from Morrison and get a force out. Tolleson struck out the next two batters to end the Mariners’ threat.
Gallardo (2-1) had taken a shutout into the seventh thanks to an ability to command his fastball and to keep the Mariners beating the ball into the ground. Of the 18 outs he recorded, 14 via ground balls, three were strikeouts and one was a flyout.
“Get the guys going up there ready to swing he bat,” Gallardo said. “Once you show that you’re going to pound the strike zone and mix in your off-speed for strikes and keep it down in the zone, I feel like I made pitches whenever I needed to and the guys made some plays behind me.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760
Pitching: Yovani Gallardo had his best start of the season, taking a shutout into the seventh inning. The first two Mariners reached in the seventh, and Gallardo was done at 99 pitches. … Shawn Tolleson escaped the trouble, thanks to a diving stop by first baseman Adam Rosales to save a run. … Tanner Scheppers made his first appearance of the season in the eighth, allowing a run. … Neftali Feliz gave up two hard-hit balls, including one caught by a leaping Shin-Soo Choo at the right-field wall, but got his second save.
Hitting: Prince Fielder got the Rangers going with an RBI double in the first two batters after Leonys Martin took a leadoff walk. Fielder later added a single for his seventh multi-hit game of the season, tied for the major-league lead. … Robinson Chirinos stayed hot, hitting a home run to start the fifth and adding a double in the seventh. Chirinos also beat the back end of a potential double play in the ninth, took second on a wild pitch and went to third on an error, and scored on Adam Rosales’ chopper off third base. … Adrian Beltre’s hitless streak reached 14 at-bats after an 0-for-4 game that dropped his average to .149.
Notable: The Rangers turned three double plays behind Gallardo, two of which ended innings. The biggest was off the bat of Seth Smith in the third inning with the bases loaded. … Gallardo has never retired Nelson Cruz, who is 5 for 5 in his career after three singles Friday.