ARLINGTON, Texas — Blake Beavan felt the butterflies building all day. This was no ordinary game for the Seattle Mariners pitcher.
Beavan pitched into the seventh inning in his first start at his hometown ballpark, but dropped a 1-0 duel against Neftali Feliz and the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night.
Feliz, Beavan’s old minor league teammate, tossed seven innings of four-hit ball in his first major league start. The former closer struck out four and walked two while throwing 108 pitches.
Beavan allowed six hits in 6 1-3 innings. He struck out three in the first three innings, then relied on fastball location to coax fly balls and grounders that thwarted Texas threats in fifth and sixth innings.
“It’s something I dreamed about doing ever since I was a little kid watching these games was pitching on that mound,” Beavan said.
Pitching for the first time since blowing a save in Game 6 of the World Series, Feliz watched new closer Joe Nathan finish the job this time. Feliz smiled widely as he accepted congratulations after Nathan’s perfect ninth.
It was a much different scene than the last time Feliz was on the mound in a meaningful game. The right-hander buried his head in his hands in St. Louis after allowing a two-run triple that tied Game 6 when the Rangers were a strike away from winning the championship. The Cardinals won the World Series in seven games.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Feliz said. “I was hoping for the moment to become a starter in the major leagues and finally it happened. And I thank the Rangers for making that happen. And here I am.”
The Rangers could celebrate thanks to David Murphy, who had three of their seven hits and drove in the only run with an infield single in the second inning.
“Murphy swung the bat extremely well and the pitching and defense held it up,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Feliz didn’t have a strikeout after the fifth inning, and relied heavily on off-speed pitches instead of the 100-mph heat he used to get 72 saves over two seasons.
Seattle had two runners on with two out in the seventh, but Feliz (1-0) got out of it when Miguel Olivo hit a comebacker to the mound. Feliz bobbled the weak grounder and recovered just in time to beat Olivo’s headfirst slide at first.
Like Yu Darvish a night earlier, Feliz let two of the first three hitters reach base — both on walks — but settled down much more quickly than the Japanese sensation.
Starting with a double play, Feliz retired nine consecutive batters before allowing his first hit in 59 at-bats over 19 2-3 career innings against Seattle, a two-out single by former Ranger Justin Smoak in the fourth.
Smoak singled again to start the seventh, and Jesus Montero had a one-out single to give Seattle its best threat. Smoak was on third when Olivo hit his dribbler back to Feliz.
Beavan (0-1) left after allowing Murphy’s second double and hitting Mike Napoli with a pitch, but Tom Wilhelmsen escaped the jam.
Because of the Mariners’ quirky start with two games in Japan, a return to spring training and two more games in Oakland, Beavan hadn’t pitched since April 1 against the Royals in Arizona.
“I was just glad to get out there … especially being back home pitching,” said Beavan, a former first-round pick by the Rangers who was sent to Seattle in the Cliff Lee deal two years ago. “It was definitely fun to get out there and get the first one out of the way.”
Texas grabbed the lead in the second. Adrian Beltre led off with a double but was caught between second and third on a grounder back to Beavan. He stayed in the rundown long enough for Michael Young to get to second. Young then moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Murphy’s infield hit.
“You don’t see too many 1-0 games in this ballpark,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “Both pitchers were outstanding.”
NOTES: Wedge benched SS Brendan Ryan for a game, saying it was over issues of “accountability.” He didn’t specify, but did say it wasn’t solely because of an errant throw on a double-play ball that sparked the Texas rally that bailed out Darvish in his debut. Munenori Kawasaki started in Ryan’s place. … Montero was back in the Mariners’ lineup as the DH after missing a game with a stomach ailment. … Darvish and Feliz became the first back-to-back Texas pitchers to make their first major league start since Matt Harrison and Warner Madrigal did it in July 2008. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Darvish was the first pitcher in more than 100 years to win his major league debut after allowing at least four runs in the first inning.