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M's capitalize against Rangers' bullpen

4/4/2003

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- So far, this looks like the same old
Texas Rangers: Batters bashing baseballs and the bullpen blowing
leads.

Four games into a new season with new manager Buck Showalter,
the Rangers are right back where they finished the last three
seasons -- alone in last place in the AL West.

Ruben Sierra and Hank Blalock hit two-run homers, but Rangers
relievers gave up three late runs and the Seattle Mariners won 6-4
Friday to spoil Texas' home opener.

"It's certainly disappointing for us,'' Showalter said. "It's
a concern, but it is a long season.''

Since a season-opening win at World Series champion Anaheim, the
Rangers have lost three straight games, giving up 21 runs in two
losses before Friday.

"Overall, the whole team is pressing a little bit,'' said
All-Star shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who was 0-for-4 to fall to .167
on the season. "We just have to let the game come to us.''

Ben Davis, batting ninth for Seattle while filling in for
injured catcher Dan Wilson, hit a two-run double in the seventh to
put the Mariners ahead 5-4 and cap a two-out rally against reliever
Francisco Cordero.

After relieving Ismael Valdes to start the seventh, Cordero
(0-1) got two quick outs, including a strikeout against Mike
Cameron on a 97 mph fastball. He then walked Mark McLemore and Jeff Cirillo on full counts before Davis doubled to the center field
wall.

"He was throwing pretty hard, but I choked up and was able to
hit it in the gap,'' Davis said.

"I left a fastball over the plate. That's what happens,'' said
Cordero, who threw just 20 of his 41 pitches for strikes.

Kazuhiro Sasaki struck out four batters in the ninth for his
first save. Sasaki, who threw a wild pitch on a third strike to
Carl Everett, became the 41st pitcher since 1900 to strike out four
batters in an inning.

Sasaki, who had elbow surgery after last season, had blown his
only other save opportunity, giving up a run and two hits in an
inning against Oakland on Thursday.

"I wanted to go in there today and do my job, and I did that,''
Sasaki said through a translator.

Texas led the majors in homers the past two seasons, and already
has an AL-high eight this season. Those homers have accounted for
14 of the team's 15 runs.

The Rangers also set major league records with 38 relief losses
and 33 blown saves last season.

Esteban Yan, signed to improve the bullpen, took over in the
eighth and like Cordero got two quick outs. Yan then gave up three
straight singles, and after McLemore's RBI single, he hit Cirillo
to load the bases. Aaron Fultz struck out Davis on three pitches.

"We don't always like it like that, but it builds character to
come back,'' said first-year Mariners manager Bob Melvin, who is
2-2 after losing his first two games. "When you get runs with two
outs, it builds confidence.''

Ryan Franklin (1-0) pitched six-plus innings in his first start
of the season, leaving after Michael Young led off the seventh with
a single. Franklin gave up four runs and six hits.

Valdes, the opening night winner, was again effective despite a
recurring problem a blistered finger on his pitching hand. He gave
up three runs -- two earned -- on four hits over six innings.

He left after 84 pitches (54 strikes), and Showalter said he
would have gone another inning without the blister.

Edgar Martinez put the Mariners ahead 1-0 with his first homer,
on the 10th pitch Valdes threw.

After Randy Winn led off the fourth with a double, Martinez hit
an RBI single.

Valdes then threw a ball away when he made a pickoff throw to
first, but Rafael Palmeiro was playing off the base against the
40-year-old Martinez. Mike Cameron's two-out double drove Martinez
home for a 3-2 lead.

Martinez finished 3-for-5, including a single in the ninth off
new Rangers closer Ugueth Urbina.

Sierra lined a two-run homer to center after Juan Gonzalez led
off the second with a single. Sierra played last year for the
Mariners, but returned as a free agent for his third stint with
Texas.

Blalock homered in the fifth after Einar Diaz's leadoff double.

Diaz made his home debut as the replacement for 10-time All-Star
catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who left as a free agent to Florida. It was
the first time since 1991 that Rodriguez wasn't behind the plate
for Texas in a home opener.

Game notes
NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith, a former Dallas
Cowboy who signed with Arizona last week, threw out the first pitch
-- a strike. He got a standing ovation. ... Texas relievers have
accounted for 16 of the 34 innings pitched this season. ... Blalock
has hit in all four games. As a rookie last season, he had a hit in
his first at-bat before an 0-for-17 slump. ... Sasaki is the second
Mariner to strike out four batters in an inning. Matt Young did it
Sept. 9, 1990.