SEATTLE -- In a battle of free-agent starting pitchers, the Mariners get the early edge for one simple reason. Rangers starter Jason Jennings threw one fast, down-the-middle fastball at a really bad time. It just happened to be just one of two at-bats on the night where he had both a runner in scoring position and two men on base. Mariners second baseman Jose Lopez properly thanked Jennings for the gift, crushing it over the left-field fence for a three-run home run in the fifth inning that sent the Rangers to a 4-1 loss at Safeco Field.
"Not where I wanted it," Jennings said after his first start for the Rangers. That may have been the only really bad pitch thrown by a Rangers starter in 21 innings at Safeco Field this week. But the Rangers still lost two of three even, though the trio of Jennings, Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla walked out of Safeco with a combined 2.14 ERA for the series. Problem was, Mariners starters Erik Bedard, Felix Hernandez and Carlos Silva had a combined 0.95 ERA for the series. Well, that was one problem for the Rangers. Another was they were 3-for-23 with runners in scoring position in the three games, including 0-for-6 against Silva and reliever Miguel Batista on Wednesday. "I didn't think four runs would do it, but it did," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. Silva, the Mariners big free-agent acquisition in the same winter in which the Rangers signed Jennings to a one-year deal, allowed just one run on three hits and three walks. He struck out five, including Michael Young twice. Ben Broussard did the only damage for the Rangers with a home run to lead off the sixth inning. "Silva did a great job," third baseman Hank Blalock said. "One thing you know about him going in is he's going to pound the strike zone. He did a good job changing speeds and getting us off-balance with different speeds on his sinker. We were just off-balance all night and couldn't put anything together. I thought J.J. did a great job." Jennings was relatively sharp for the most of the night and only a broken-bat bloop single kept him from getting through the fifth inning unscathed. He gave up a solo home run to Jose Vidro with one out in the second, then responded by retiring 10 straight hitters. He just needed one more to get out of the fifth, but Yuniesky Betancourt, the Mariners shortstop who was 6-for-11 in the series, reached on a broken-bat single that just flared over Young's head at shortstop. Ichiro Sukuki then singled through the left side to bring up Lopez. "Everything was going to plan," Jennings said. "I was executing, I was getting quick outs, everything was looking good. The Vidro home run was a mistake, but a solo home run is not going to beat you." Jennings got ahead 1-2 to Lopez, then couldn't get him to bite on a couple of sinking fastballs down and away. That left the count full, and, with the dangerous Raul Ibanez looming on deck, Jennings threw then threw the ill-fated fastball that Lopez hit out to give the Mariners a 4-0 lead. Jennings admitted there was some concern about walking Lopez and having Ibanez, a left-handed hitter, come to bat with the bases loaded. "I knew he was on deck," Jennings said. "Obviously, I didn't want to walk the No. 2 hitter to get to him, but that's still no excuse. I still need to make a quality pitch to him. You can't make a mistake like that when the other guy is throwing the ball well. The ball just ran over the plate."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.