Indians starter Jake Westbrook won his first game since April by holding the Rangers scoreless through six innings, preventing them from completing a three-game sweep of the series.
Gabbard, 4-0 with the Red Sox, couldn't match that, giving up three runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. But Rangers manager Ron Washington liked what he saw.
"I thought he was very good," Washington said. "He showed he has an idea of what to do. He certainly knows how to pitch and he doesn't get rattled. He went out and executed his game plan. I was very impressed."
Gabbard's main game plan is to get ground balls, and he got 12 of his 17 outs on grounders. But a couple of mistakes hurt him as well.
He walked Franklin Gutierrez to lead off the third and that led to the Indians first run. Gutierrez went to second on Josh Barfield's sacrifice bunt, to third on a wild pitch and the scored on Grady Sizemore's single through a drawn-in infield.
Singles by Kenny Lofton and Gutierrez and another sacrifice fly by Sizemore made it 2-0 in the fifth. Gabbard cost himself another run when he hit Victor Martinez to lead off the sixth. Martinez moved to third on a Ryan Garko single and then scored on Lofton's infield single.
"Average," Gabbard said of his outing. "I wasn't too sharp with everything. I'm a ground-ball pitcher and I got a lot of ground balls, but some found holes, and that hurt me. Overall, I'm not mad. I kept the team in the ballgame and went deep in the game."
Gabbard was one of three players acquired from the Red Sox in a trade for Eric Gagne on Tuesday. Gabbard, prior to the trade, had been pitching on one of baseball's biggest stages in the middle of a pennant race, so it's understandable that he wasn't overly nervous for this start.
"I took it like any other game," Gabbard said. "I just went out there and prepared. The only thing different was the name on the jersey. That's all you can say about that."
The Rangers had a chance to get him an early lead but couldn't get anybody home. They had runners at third base with less than two outs in both the first and second innings but couldn't score. They were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position in the game and are 6-for-50 on the first six games of the roadtrip.
Brad Wilkerson, hitting in the No. 2 spot, and Michael Young were a combined 4-for-8, but the middle of the order -- Jason Botts, Marlon Byrd, Nelson Cruz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia -- were a combined 2-for-16 right behind them.
"They're going to get their opportunities," Washington said. "One thing is clear, and that's other teams aren't going to let Michael Young beat them. Hitting in the middle of this order, they're all going to have to be able to handle it."
Botts got his first hit with an eighth-inning double but he popped up with runners at second and third with one out in the first inning against Westbrook.
"Westbrook pitched me tough and didn't make a mistake," said Botts. "Over the past several years, I consider that my role to drive in runs. That's something I look forward to, rooting for guys to get on base in front of me. A couple of at-bats here and I didn't get the job done, but I'm getting comfortable and I will get the job done."
That's what the Rangers expect. If they get that, they will take what they got from Gabbard on Thursday afternoon.