Nippert stellar in beating Mariners
Right-hander allows seven hits in seven shutout innings
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers won Wednesday to take their second straight game against the Mariners and pull within three games of the .500 mark.And they did it by having Dustin Nippert, Warner Madrigal and Frank Francisco protect a one-run lead en route to a 1-0 shutout of the Mariners at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. For those of you scoring at home, Nippert had been a long reliever with a 7.03 ERA until early last month, Madrigal has been in the Major Leagues for just over two months, and Frank Francisco has been a closer for all of 10 days. Oh, and the backstop from start to finish was Taylor Teagarden, who was making his third Major League start. "Nip did one heck of a job," manager Ron Washington said. "He and Teagarden were mixing pitches very well. ... He was throwing a lot of good offspeed pitches when he was behind in the count, and that allowed him to come back and get outs."
The 1-0 victory was just the third such win for the Rangers in Arlington since 1991. It was the first since Aug. 25, 2000, against the Blue Jays. It was also the Rangers' second 1-0 victory this season. The first came on July 20 at Minnesota with none other than Teagarden behind the plate.Teagarden also has a history of catching gems by Nippert in particular. The two were together at Triple-A Oklahoma on June 29 when Nippert threw a seven-inning no-hitter. Nippert didn't no-hit the Mariners on Wednesday, but the results were no less effective. "He called a great game," Nippert said. "We try to stick to the game plan, but if he sees something, we'll adjust. And he picks up on things the hitters are doing that we can take advantage of pretty quick." Nippert needed just 99 pitches to complete seven innings, allowing only seven baserunners, all on hits. Only two Mariners got as far as third base under his watch. "The first two games, I had the advantage of watching these guys for 18 innings," Teagarden said. "If they got knocks early, we didn't care as long as we were able to get ahead of guys and put them away." Through three innings, Nippert had faced one over the minimum. His next four innings, he was able to work out of jams, leaving six Mariners baserunners stranded. "Nip's got an electric fastball that he's able to elevate and locate from side to side," Teagarden said. "He can also pitch off his offspeed pitches. He's got a lot of weapons." Before departing, Nippert found himself with two outs in the seventh, a man on second and Ichiro Suzuki at the plate. He rose to the occasion and induced an inning-ending groundout. In winds that were gusting from 12-25 mph, keeping the ball out of the air was paramount for Nippert. Of Nippert's 21 outs recorded, 10 were ground-ball outs and four were strikeouts compared to just two infield popouts and five outfield flyouts. "A lot of times they were out front and couldn't elevate his pitches, maybe because they were sitting on his fastball," Washington said. "We know they can pound some fastballs, but at least we kept the big part of their lineup down and we kept them in the ballpark." Nippert's outing, combined with a solitary run the Rangers scored in the bottom of the first inning, gave the bullpen a slim margin for error, but a lead to work with nonetheless. Michael Young got the first inning going with a one-out single, which extended his hitting streak to seven games and gave him his 164th hit of the season as he seeks his 200th hit, which would make him the first right-handed hitter to do so in six straight seasons. The day after becoming the second player in the last 55 years to drive in at least 120 runs in his second season, Josh Hamilton didn't get an RBI, but he did put Young in better position to score with a double. Milton Bradley brought Young home for the decisive run with a sacrifice fly to shallow left. It was a deep drive to left by Seattle's Yuniesky Betancourt in the top of the ninth that took Nippert's breath away. After Madrigal pitched his third straight scoreless relief appearance and his fifth in six games to retire the Mariners in the eighth, Francisco entered in the ninth in line for his fourth straight save. Francisco struck out Tug Hulett looking to start the inning, but Betancourt came up and lifted one of Francisco's offerings toward the stands in left-center field. The drive took Marlon Byrd to the wall, and with his back to the wall tracked it down, making a leaping grab to take away extra bases. Nippert admitted he thought his chances for his first Major League victory since April 16 had vanished on the play. "When he hit it, off the bat you never know," Nippert said. "I was holding my breath and when [Byrd] caught it, I definitely let out a sigh of relief." The last ball Francisco let the Mariners put in play was harmless -- a foul popout to Teagarden. Since the Rangers traded Eddie Guardado on Aug. 25, Francisco has converted all four of his save chances. He's pitched 4 1/3 innings in those appearances and has allowed just one baserunner compared to the eight hitters he struck out. He certainly looks locked in as the closer, but he says he feels the same as he did before being put in the role. "I don't really feel different," Francisco said. "I know when I'll pitch. It's no surprise. I prepare and go through my routine. I'm just focused right now on locating my fastball to get ahead in the count."
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.