Brandon Maurer, seeking to keep his spot in the Seattle rotation, threw six effective innings for his first major league win, and struggling Dustin Ackley knocked in the winning run as the Mariners rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field Sunday and a split of their four-game series.
Maurer, the first Seattle pitcher to jump from AA ball to the majors since 1993, had two lamentable outings to begin his major league career and was in danger of demotion after failing to get out of the first inning in his previous start. But he allowed just two earned runs Sunday on five hits. He also struck out five and walked one.
Ackley, who changed his stance this year with less-than-spectacular results (four hits entering Sunday) reverted to the one that fast-tracked him to the major leagues. He owent 1-for-4 Sunday, improving his season batting average to just .122, but his sixth-inning single scored Jesus Montero.
The Mariners, who had lost two of three to the Rangers and four of five overall, improved to 6-8. After 14 games in 14 days to start the regular season, the Mariners get Monday off before beginning a three-game series with the Detroit Tigers Tuesday. That series will close out a 10-game Seattle homestand.
In a game that featured four lead changes, the Rangers got on the board in the second when Mitch Moreland doubled off Maurer, scoring Geovany Soto. The Mariners answered in their half of the inning when Kyle Seager’s double scored Justin Smoak. The Mariners provided Maurer with a one-run cushion in the fourth when Raul Ibanez homered to center on a 1-0 count, his second long ball of the season.
But that didn’t last long as Lance Berkman singled in the fifth, scoring Elvis Andrus, who had reached on a fielder’s choice. A passed ball by Montero brought home Craig Gentry, who had been plunked by a Maurer pitch, giving Texas a 3-2 lead.
Montero atoned for that passed ball in the sixth with an RBI single that scored Seager, who had doubled, and tied the score 3-3. Ackley then singled, putting the Mariners ahead to stay.
The Mariners had two opportunities to put some distance between themselves and the Rangers, but left two runners on in the fourth and fifth innings.
After Maurer departed, four Seattle relievers combined to hold Texas to no runs while allowing just one hit. Tom Willhelmsen notched his fifth save in five chances with a perfect ninth inning.
After the day off Monday, the Mariners will play 16 games in 16 days. Following the Detroit series, the Mariners play three at Texas and three at Houston before returning to Safeco Field April 25 to face the Los Angeles Angels.
Newly acquired Aaron Harang, now Seattle’s No. 4 starter while Blake Beavan works out his mental-approach problems in the Mariners bullpen, will make his club debut Tuesday. He will oppose former Mariner Doug Fister.
NOTES: The Mariners went 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position Sunday and stranded eight . . . Three Mariners, Ibanez (2-for-4), Seager (2-for-4) and Montero (2-for-4), had multi-hit games.