BY John Hickey 08:52PM 04/05/2011

Pineda looks good, Mariners not so much

Big rookie shows himself well, but the Mariner offense doesn’t flex much muscle on his behalf. Stop us if you’ve heard that before …

Moral victories aren’t worth all that much in baseball, but sometimes that’s all there is.

Case 1 is Tuesday’s Major League debut by Mariners’ rookie starting pitcher Michael Pineda in Arlington, Texas.

The 6-foot-7 right-hander gave evidence he might have the right stuff to give the Seattle starting rotation a lift.

Pineda showed none of the nerves that might be expected from a pitcher who was in Double-A ball at this time last year. He gave Seattle six innings, allowed five hits and three runs in a 3-2 loss.

He showed promise, but the Mariners (2-3) only have a third consecutive defeat to show for it.

The hits, combined with the one walk he allowed, meant the Rangers only got six base runners, but half of them scored. Seattle put five runners on consecutively in the seventh inning alone, but veteran Texas reliever Darren Oliver got Chone Figgins to pop out and center fielder Julio Borbon made a nice diving catch against Milton Bradley to bring a bases-loaded rally to an end with Seattle still down by a run.

“He pitched a great ball game,’’ manager Eric Wedge said of Pineda after the game in the media scrum. “He was poised out there, aggressive and used all of his pitches. He did a great job, particularly for his first outing.”

Pineda, 22, made the starting rotation this spring to become the first rookie in the Mariners rotation to start the season since Freddy Garcia in 1999.

He showed the Rangers a 96-mph fastball and a nasty slider with a nice break to it. The first two times through the lineup, the Rangers got just three men on base, although two of them were Mitch Moreland, whose triple following a walk to Nelson Cruz in the second pushed Texas into a 1-0 lead.

The ball was well struck, but it was a triple in name only, because Michael Saunders misplayed a ball that was catchable, although it would have been an above average catch.

The third time through the lineup, however, proved to be Pineda’s undoing, in part because Ian Kinsler opened the sixth inning with a single that nicked of the glove of Jack Wilson, getting his first start of the year at shortstop with Brendan Ryan sitting this one out. Had Wilson caught the ball, the inning might have been quiet.

As it was, however, Josh Hamilton and Michael Young clubbed RBI doubles and that put the Rangers up 3-0.

“They are a good-hitting club and it’s tough to keep them down,’’ Wedge said. “A couple of good hitters did what they were supposed to do with pitches (Pineda missed with).’’

Seattle hitters got just four men on base against Texas starter Alexi Ogando in the converted reliever’s six innings. Once former Seattle reliever Mark Lowe got in the game, things changed. With one out, Miguel Olivo, Adam Kennedy and Wilson backed up singles, producing the first Mariner run.

Saunders, hitless on the year, then singled to right-center to get Seattle within a run at 3-2 with the top of the lineup next. Ichiro Suzuki was safe on an error by Kinsler at second base, loading the bases, but Figgins’ popup and Borbon’s headlong dive kept the Mariners at bay.

The Mariners never got another base runner. They fell three games behind Texas just five games into the season.

Twitter: @JHickey3


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