ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas fill-in starter Dustin Nippert got to be part of a few rarities Wednesday.
Nippert pitched seven innings to win as a starter for the first time in nearly three years, and the Rangers beat the Seattle Mariners for only their third 1-0 victory in 15 seasons at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Considering that Texas starters entered with the majors’ second-highest ERA (5.33), and that Nippert had allowed 10 runs over 9 1-3 innings in losing his first two starts in place of injured Vicente Padilla, it was certainly an unexpected outcome.
It was the first 1-0 victory for Texas at home since beating Toronto on Aug. 25, 2000.
“Nipp did one heck of a job,” manager Ron Washington said. “I never thought there was anything wrong with his delivery. It was just placement of pitches. … He’ll get the ball again.”
Texas scored in the first when Michael Young singled, advanced on Josh Hamilton’s double and came home on Milton Bradley’s sacrifice fly to left.
That was the only run the Rangers scored off Felix Hernandez (9-9). And all they needed.
Warner Madrigal pitched the eighth, and Frank Francisco finished to convert his fourth consecutive save chance since taking over as closer last week.
The first home day game for the Rangers since July 13 drew an announced attendance of 12,882, though the stands appeared to be far emptier. It was the smallest crowd of the season.
It was just the eighth start in 58 career appearances for Nippert (2-4), acquired from Arizona at the end of spring training. It was his longest start of his career, but he had a seven-inning relief appearance earlier this season, and won in relief another game.
Nippert’s previous victory as a starter was Sept. 29, 2005, for the Diamondbacks against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out four with no walks against Seattle.
“I have not really been thinking about when I would win another,” Nippert said. “I’m not trying to focus on results, just my pitches.”
Hernandez (9-9) gave up seven hits over 7 1-3 innings in his 100th career start.
“He did a great job against a very good lineup over there. After the first inning, he really got in synch with all his pitches,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “He’s had some real good games that he didn’t win, that’s for sure.”
Hamilton, the majors’ RBI leader with 121, went 3-for-4 to raise his average to .301. Chris Davis had two doubles. Adrian Beltre, Raul Ibanez and Yuniesky Betancourt each had two hits for Seattle.
Texas posted its seventh shutout this season, but the only other 1-0 victory was July 20 at Minnesota. Padilla, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring, has the only complete-game shutout, a seven-hitter against the Twins on April 27.
Francisco took over the closing role when Eddie Guardado, already filling in for injured C.J. Wilson, was traded to Minnesota on Aug. 25. Francisco has thrown 4 1-3 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and no walks since.
After pinch-hitter Tug Hulett took a called third strike to start the ninth, Betancourt hit a deep flyball. Left fielder Marlon Byrd ran into the gap and made a leaping catch against the 14-foot wall to prevent an extra-base hit.
Nippert held his breath while watching Betancourt’s ball in the air. But Byrd made the play.
“I was 0-for-the series, so I had to make a catch or two,” Byrd said. “The ball hung up a little bit. When it came off the bat, I thought it was going to be off the wall. … Our hitting slowed down, but we got the pitching and defense to win.”