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08/25/07 1:44 AM ET

Rangers' bats can't back Millwood

Right-hander allows four runs in season-high 8 2/3 innings

ARLINGTON -- Kevin Millwood delivered his finest outing of the season on Friday, leaving just one out shy of giving the Rangers their first complete game of the season.

However, the Rangers, similar to Millwood's last start, provided limited run support, and the Mariners escaped with a 4-2 victory at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

"It was definitely a tough night," Millwood said. "They're swinging the bat as well as anyone I've faced this year, including the Yankees, Red Sox, whoever."

David Murphy gave the Rangers a spark in the fifth inning with a game-tying, two-run home run, but that was the only offensive production Millwood received.

Mariners starter Felix Hernandez was a little more impressive than Millwood, retiring 14 straight batters and allowing just three hits. In his last start at Minnesota, Millwood allowed just one run on four hits over seven innings. But, like Friday, it was no match for his counterpart, as Johan Santana struck out 17 and allowed two hits over eight innings.

"I've had a bad draw lately," said Millwood, who was also on the losing end of Mark Buehrle's no-hitter in April. "A pitching duel is always fun. It's more fun to come out ahead."

Still, the Rangers remain the only American League team without a complete game from at least one of its starters.

In the ninth, Millwood received some defensive help in trying to attain that feat from Nelson Cruz. Cruz made a diving catch on Yuniesky Betancourt's short popup to right for the second out. Millwood then had to face Ichiro Suzuki, who is a lifetime .410 hitter against Millwood, for the final out.

"It's almost nice to see a guy that knows his ability and knows his strength and uses them all," Millwood said. "He's fast and he knows it and he uses that."

Suzuki, who was 2-for-4 going into his final at-bat, reached on an infield single. Jose Vidro followed with an RBI single to right, which ended Millwood's night.

"It's always nice to finish a game," said Millwood, who has 14 career complete games. "But, I don't think it's a goal [on our rotation]. We still got some time left, so hopefully we'll get one or two."

Millwood allowed 13 hits, but just four runs, while stranding eight runners. His most impressive inning was in the third, when he had no outs and runners on second and third. Millwood retired the next three batters without allowing a run.

"He's a big-time warrior," manager Ron Washington said. "What can I say? He's a No. 1 guy, he showed you tonight. He was throwing in the 90s in the ninth. He stayed out there and kept competing. He was outstanding."

Millwood's teammates also showed appreciation for his effort.

"We know when it comes to effort and competing, he's as good as there is," shortstop Michael Young said. "That's one of the many reasons why I love playing behind him."

Despite his effort, Millwood was still charged with the loss, his second straight, even though he's posted a 2.82 ERA in his last two games. The Rangers were shut out in his last start and provided just two runs on Friday.

After Hernandez retired 14 straight, Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled in the fifth. Murphy then brought the offense to life with his two-run home run to tie the game at 2.

That was the only offense the Rangers mustered, as Mariners relievers George Sherrill, Brandon Morrow and J.J. Putz finished the game.

Millwood gave up the go-ahead run in the seventh inning when Suzuki reached on an infield hit and scored on Jose Guillen's single to right. The Mariners added an insurance run in the ninth when Vidro hit an RBI single to right, scoring Jose Lopez.

The Mariners jumped out to an early two-run lead scoring single runs in the first and second.

Guillen belted a solo home run to left field in the first off Millwood. In the second, Kenji Johjima scored on Suzuki's single.

While Millwood was faced with a loss, Murphy continued making his case for a roster spot next season. After hitting his first home run of the season in the fifth, he provided defensive help in the seventh. He showcased his arm strength by gunning down Guillen, who tried to stretch his RBI single into a double.

"I'm trying to make a good first impression," Murphy said. "I'm going to try and do it over a period of games."

Drew Davison is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.