Left-hander Jason Vargas gave Seattle its third straight solid start. Not good enough.
Derek Holland struck out eight with no walks in 7 1/3 innings, and Michael Young backed him with a two-run homer and four RBI in the Rangers’ 5-3 victory Thursday.
Vargas (1-1) allowed four runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings, and trailed 3-2 when he turned it over to the bullpen. His start came after Blake Beavan and Kevin Millwood each gave up just one run the previous two nights, only to both leave trailing 1-0.
The Mariners managed one win in the four-game series, and only because they knocked around Texas closer Joe Nathan for three runs in the ninth inning of a 4-3 victory Wednesday.
“We threw the ball great,” Vargas said. “They have some guys who do it on the mound pretty good over there, so it’s tough on our guys too. They’ve got some pretty good arms and live arms.”
The Mariners return to Seattle two months and a day after reporting to spring training in Arizona. Upon landing, they will have traveled more than 15,000 miles and started their regular season twice — first in Japan and then Oakland.
“You’d be lying if you said it wasn’t wearing on you a little bit,” said shortstop Brendan Ryan, who was benched for a game after a rough night in the series opener. “It’ll be nice to unpack.”
Holland (1-0) allowed two runs and five hits. After two walks that helped the Chicago White Sox rally for a 4-3 win in his first start, Holland had a much sharper outing.
“I’m not going to worry too much about a previous game,” he said. “My mentality is I want to be the starter and the closer. I always try to go out there and go as long as I can.”
Following Ichiro Suzuki’s two-out single in the first, the only runner he allowed in a span of 14 batters was on a throwing error by second baseman Ian Kinsler, the first error by the Texas infield this year after 108 clean chances.
Holland extended a scoreless streak by Texas starters to 22 2/3 innings before Alex Liddi’s RBI single in the sixth. Seattle's Kyle Seager added a 438-foot homer into the right-field upper deck in the seventh, but Holland bounced back with a strikeout of Miguel Olivo and got a flyout from Casper Wells.
Already at 102 pitches after seven innings, Holland struck out Ryan starting the eighth, then allowed Chone Figgins’ double and was replaced after 115 pitches.
“When he got into the sixth inning, he started elevating his pitches,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “He fought through the seventh, and it looked like he might get us three outs in the eighth but it didn’t work out.”
Young put Texas ahead with an RBI single in the first. Then with the Rangers leading 1-0 in the fifth inning for the third straight game, Young hit an opposite-field homer into the first row in right for a 3-0 lead against Vargas. Young added a run-scoring single in the eighth off Erasmo Ramirez.
“All Michael does is hit,” said Washington, who moved Young up to second in the order from his usual No. 5 spot to give shortstop Elvis Andrus a day off. “I just happened to have him in the perfect spot hitting second, and he came through huge for us today.”
Kinsler had three hits for Texas, including a two-out RBI double in the seventh that gave the Rangers a 4-2 cushion with closer Joe Nathan unavailable after pitching on consecutive days.
Mike Adams filled in for Nathan, giving up Olivo’s two-out RBI double in the ninth before retiring Michael Saunders on a grounder for his second save with the Rangers and the fourth of his career.
Vargas had a shaky first inning, allowing three of the first four Rangers to reach base. He bounced back to retire nine in a row before faltering again in the fifth.
“Vargo was really good today,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He was up a little bit early, but he found it. He gave us every opportunity to win.”
The Rangers’ Nos. 3-6 hitters combined to go 0-for-14 against Vargas and Ramirez. Mike Napoli was among them, going 0-for-3 as his average dropped to .077. ... Nathan entered Thursday as one of two relievers with two losses this season. The other was Boston’s Mark Melancon. Nathan allowed four of the first five runs surrendered by the Texas bullpen. The only other Rangers reliever to lose twice within the first six games was Frank Francisco in 2010. He was replaced as closer by Neftali Feliz, who saved 72 games in Texas’ back-to-back World Series seasons. ... Kinsler hit three homers in the Rangers’ first six games for the second straight season. Nelson Cruz did it in 2010-11. ... Seattle’s bullpen has given up eight homers in eight games after leading the AL with just 32 allowed last season. ... The Rangers announced Thursday they have sold 2 million tickets, and they lead the AL with an average of 39,133 fans through eight games.
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