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05/08/08 2:27 AM ET
Padilla shuts out Mariners for seven
Right-hander strikes out eight to earn fifth win of season
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Vicente Padilla's first pitch to Ichiro Suzuki in the third inning wasn't even a changeup. It wasn't even a real baseball pitch. It was more like a lob, something right out of slow-pitch softball. The radar gun clocked it at 52 mph. Ichiro swung at it and hit a weak grounder to second baseman Ian Kinsler for the third out of the inning. "A slow curve," Padilla said. "Very slow." No matter, just about everything Padilla threw up there against the Mariners worked beautifully on Wednesday night, and the Rangers finally figured out how to beat an opposing left-handed starter -- have your right-handed starter pitch better. Padilla did just that, and brilliantly so, against Mariners left-hander Erik Bedard, holding them scoreless over seven innings in the Rangers' tension-filled 2-0 victory on a chilly overcast evening at Safeco Field. Milton Bradley scored both runs for the Rangers, who have now won eight of their last 12 games. "Padilla was excellent," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He threw the ball all over the plate. He did a great job keeping them off-balance." The Rangers won even though shortstop Michael Young had to come out of the game in the first inning with a strained left hip flexor. He first felt it during batting practice and again during his first at-bat. The Rangers didn't want to push it on a chilly evening, but Young underwent treatment during the game and is hoping to play Thursday. "If I feel I can play, I'll play," Young said. "I just want to make sure I can play. I'll know a lot more tomorrow, but I imagine it won't be a big deal." The Rangers were able to carve out their second victory in eight games when the opposition started a left-handed pitcher even though Young has been their best hitter against lefties. Padilla was simply just better. "Padilla was unbelievable," infielder Ramon Vazquez said. "That's the Padilla I use to see with the Phillies. I used to hate facing him. He was dirty." Bedard was almost as good as Padilla, but the Rangers finally got to the lefty in the fourth inning, when Bradley singled with one out and scored on a two-out triple by Brandon Boggs. That triple snapped an 0-for-14 skid for Boggs. "That felt really good," Boggs said. "I finally got some good wood on a pitch." Bradley added one more run with his fourth home run of the season with two out in the sixth, and the pitching made it stand up with the Rangers' second shutout of the season. "Yeah, that was a good win," center fielder Josh Hamilton said. "The pitching did a good job, everything worked defensively and we got a couple big hits. That's the way you build confidence, winning a 2-0 game like that and showing guys you can get it done." Padilla has now won three straight starts while allowing just one run in 21 2/3 innings and an opponent's batting average of .187. On Wednesday night, he allowed just two hits, two walks and a hit batter. At one point he retired 12 straight hitters, and he also finished with a season-high eight strikeouts. "What he has done lately that is different is that his command has improved," Mariners hitting coach Jeff Pentland said. "He has always had a good arm and good stuff, but this year he seems to be making more quality pitches. We didn't hit any ball hard off of him, really." Padilla's one moment of anxiety came in the seventh, when he walked Raul Ibanez and Adrian Beltre to open the inning. That brought pitching coach Mark Connor to the mound and Jamey Wright started warming up in the bullpen. "I felt a little pressure right there after the two walks," Padilla said. "I had to be careful with my pitches. I didn't want to give up a Texas Leaguer or something like that. I was trying to make the right pitch and not leave it over the middle of the plate." Padilla, in that moment of crisis, did not deign to lob one up there. He came with heat -- 93-96 mph -- and proceeded to strike out Jeff Clement (on three pitches), Yuniesky Betancourt and Wladimir Balentien to end the inning. "A great fastball," Washington said. "They made him work to start the inning, and then he went to work." That was it for him. Joaquin Benoit came in and had his own cliff-hanging adventures in the eighth. He started it off by walking Jamie Burke, the Mariners' backup catcher who is hitting .143 on the season. Miguel Cairo followed with a high drive to deep left-center that Hamilton ran down and caught at the waist while narrowly avoiding a collision with Boggs racing in from left field. That brought up Ichiro, who worked the count full while fouling off four two-strike pitches. Benoit finally got him to fly out to center field, then retired Jose Lopez on a fly to left to end the threat. C.J. Wilson, despite issuing the Rangers' fourth walk in the final three innings, closed it out in the ninth.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.