Thank You Seattle Mariners: Rays 4, Rangers 1

With a mere 27 games remaining on the 2011 schedule, anything that gets the Texas Rangers one step closer to clinching a playoff berth is welcome. Certainly, fans would prefer the Rangers take the drama out of it and just clinch a return trip to the playoffs by winning, winning again and winning some more.

Nice as it would be, it is not realistic. So on those days when the Rangers don’t win, a well-placed assist is always welcome. Such was what occurred Wednesday night, when the Mariners helped the Rangers out with a 2-1 come from behind victory over the Angels. It helped take the sting out of the Rangers 4-1 defeat by Tampa Bay and maintained the Rangers’ 3 1/2 game lead in the AL West.

Outside of the first inning, when they loaded the bases with one out, Texas never had much of a chance against James Shields. Some games you just lose because an outstanding pitcher throws an outstanding game and this was one of them. Shields was magnificent, throwing eight shutout innings and getting out of the aforementioned first inning by inducing an inning ending double play grounder from Mike Napoli.

Of more concern was the horrific performance of Alexi Ogando and the continued struggles of newly acquired Koji Uehara. Ogando lasted less than three innings, giving up only three runs but looking just awful out on the mound. Last night only confirmed my suspicion that Scott Feldman will replace Ogando in his next scheduled start Monday at the Trop. Uehara, meanwhile, came on to pitch the 8th and again gave up a home run, his 4th since joining the Rangers and in only 10 2/3 innings.

On the positive side of the ledger, rookie Mark Hamburger came on in the 9th, making his major league debut and tossing a scoreless inning. By the way, I will not make any Hamburger puns, as I’ve seen enough of them over the past two days to realize it’s already become trite. Matt Harrison, who took a rotation turn off, tossed two hitless innings and appears ready for his next start Sunday against the Red Sox.

 Series finale tonight with Adrian Beltre back in the Rangers line-up. Also activated is utility infielder Andres Blanco. The Rangers have also called up two players, now that rosters have expanded: infielder Esteban German and pitcher Merkin Valdez.  Mike Gonzalez and Matt Treanor also join the team tonight, while the Rangers have sent AAA reliever Pedro Strop to the Orioles to complete the trade for Gonzalez. More players will join the Rangers later, but will wait until Round Rock and Frisco complete their respective playoff series.