ARLINGTON -- The Rangers went looking for starting pitching on Thursday as the Trade Deadline approached. They asked about Indians starter Paul Byrd, talked to the Nationals at length about Tim Redding and made it clear to the Marlins that they wanted starting pitching in return for Gerald Laird. Royals right-hander Zack Greinke was the guy who the Rangers really wanted, but they were told he was not available. So, the Rangers press forward in the American League Wild Card race with a rotation that includes no less than three rookie starters and understand that this could be a rocky ride at times.
Such was the case on Thursday night, as rookie left-hander Matt Harrison allowed six runs in 4 2/3 innings and lost to the Mariners, 8-5, on Thursday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers, in splitting four games with the Mariners, go into August five games behind the Red Sox in the Wild Card chase. "As I've said all along, you don't have success if you don't pitch," manager Ron Washington said. "If you pitch well, you're fine. If you don't pitch, you're not going to be successful. We're going to keep running what we have out there and hopefully, each time, they'll learn something and get better." Five days earlier Harrison had beaten AL ERA leader Justin Duchscherer out in Oakland but this time he was out-pitched by Mariners knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who took a two-hit shutout into the eighth before giving up a two-run home run to Ramon Vazquez. "You have to give the guy credit because we didn't do well against him, but we kind of got ourselves out by being impatient and hitting some lazy fly balls and things like that," outfielder David Murphy said. "Everybody was just getting themselves out. It was uncharacteristic for our offense, but that's no excuse. We have to be able to hit whoever's out there." The Rangers had ten hits in the game, including three by Chris Davis, but seven of them -- along with all five runs -- came in the final two innings, after a two-run home run by Adrian Beltre gave the Mariners an 8-0 lead in the top of the eighth. Harrison gave up a triple to Ichiro Suzuki leading off the top of the first inning and seemed to be in constant trouble for most of the evening. He did retire the side in order in the third but overall allowed five hits and five walks in 42/3 innings. "I felt good before the game, and I felt good warming up," Harrison said. "I just couldn't get ahead of hitters and when you do that, you get into trouble. I've got to focus more on getting ahead of hitters. I just didn't do that tonight." Ichiro's triple and a double by Raul Ibanez gave the Mariners two runs in the first and errors by Vazquez and right fielder David Murphy led to two unearned runs in the second. That left the Mariners with a 4-0 lead and they added two more in the fourth without the benefit of a hit. Harrison walked Miguel Cairo and Bryan LaHair to start the inning and Jamie Burke bunted them to third. Cairo scored when shortstop Michael Young was late and off-target with his throw to the plate on Jeremy Reed's grounder, and Ichiro made it 6-0 with a sacrifice fly. The Rangers have used six different rookies in their starting rotation this season for a total of 25 starts and they a combined 6-9 with a 7.25 ERA. The Rangers are 11-14 in games started by a rookie. "The one thing I've noticed most is them struggling with their command," Washington said. "I don't know it it's being anxious. They've got the stuff, but they have to command both sides of the plate, use their off-speed stuff when they're behind in the count, and be able to throw inside. They still have to do all those things that a pitcher has to do to be successful." Harrison, acquired exactly one year ago as one of five players acquired from the Braves for Mark Teixeira, is 2-2 with a 7.40 ERA in five starts since being called up on July 8 from Triple-A Oklahoma. "It's tough, but we have to rely on those guys," catcher Gerald Laird said. "What else are we going to do? We've got some guys banged up, we need these guys to stand up and pitch. It's tough. It's different up here, but you have to get over it, eventually." The Rangers send their seventh rookie starter to the mound on Friday when Tommy Hunter makes his Major League debut against the Blue Jays. "When you've got the injuries we've had, you've still got to send a starter out there," Washington said. "Tomorrow, that happens to be Hunter. Sometimes, you just go out there as an unknown and throw the game of you life. I'm standing up here and hoping Hunter throws the game of his life."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.