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Gagne marks return to majors with save over Mariners

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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SEATTLE -- Eric Gagne walked onto a major league mound for the first time in more than 10 months and was greeted by a cheesy scoreboard clip trying to inspire a Mariners rally against him.

It didn't work.

Gagne pitched a scoreless ninth inning, including a strikeout of Ichiro Suzuki, for his second save in 22 months to help the Texas Rangers beat Seattle 5-2 on Friday night.

In the scoreboard clip, Kurt Russell was portraying former Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks in the movie Miracle. But in his head, Gagne was replaying the hard rock anthem that used to greet him in the ninth inning when he was the closer in Los Angeles: Guns 'N Roses Welcome to the Jungle.

"I was trying to stop shaking. I was nervous out there," Gagne said of his first save since last June 6, before back surgery ended his season in July. "It's been two frustrating years. Now, I'm back on track."

The bushy haired, bushing bearded Gagne then knocked his hand on the wood shelf of his locker.

"You never know when it's going to end," he said.

He thought it might be over last summer when doctors took out 85 percent of his L-4 and L-5 vertebrae in his lower back. Then came three months without being able to jog, more waiting for a pitching elbow to heal from surgery last April and two weeks of extended spring training with Double-A Frisco that ended when he came off the disabled list Friday morning.

Ian Kinsler hit his third home run in four games and Matt Kata had three hits, including a solo home run in his first major league start in two years. Opening-day starter Kevin Millwood allowed a run in six innings despite battling a bad cold.

But all of that meant far less to Texas than Gagne's return to relevance.

The Rangers took a $6 million, one-year flyer on him -- with as much as $5 million more possible based on how many games the three-time All-Star finishes.

All that is why Friday's ninth inning was as glorious for Gagne as any of the 152 games he saved for L.A. from 2002-04. And key for the Rangers, too.

"Finally, we got a chance to see him close a ball game," relieved manager Ron Washington said. "That's what we brought him here to do, get three outs."

Gagne said he was overanxious while falling behind the first batter he faced, pinch-hitter Ben Broussard. He fell behind 2-0 before Broussard blooped a single off him.

Gagne then threw four consecutive fastballs that hit 93 mph to Ichiro Suzuki. Last year's major league hits leader swung over the fourth one for his eighth strikeout in 22 at-bats, extending his hitless streak to 12 at bats.

Former Dodgers teammate Adrian Beltre, who swore if he ever faced Gagne in a game, he wanted to see a curveball, was next. Beltre told Gagne he know when the closer was about to throw a curve because he could see his fingers spread before the pitch from his position at third base.

Beltre never saw the first-pitch bender coming and froze as the strike went by. The two former Dodgers then laughed at each other. Gagne even had to step off the mound momentarily to get serious again.

"No, I was expecting that," Beltre said, still smiling about his former pal.

Two fastballs later, Beltre grounded into a double play. Game over, just as the L.A. scoreboard used to proclaim.

"I wanted to (mess) him up ... but I'm happy for him," Beltre said. "It would be kind of sad to see that much talent and an arm like that lost to injury."

Gagne punctuated his save with three, short, understated fist pumps. He received hugs from his new teammates, and threw the ball his teammates gave him into the stands.

"I've done that 84 times in a row," Gagne said, referring to his major league record for save conversions that ended in 2004.

Notes

  • Sammy Sosa ended an 0-for-15 skid with a hard single past Beltre in the fourth. In the eighth, he did his familiar skip-hop after he hit what he thought was a home run, but LF Raul Ibanez caught the drive on the warning track.
  • The Mariners played their sixth game on the season's 13th day, thanks to four snowouts and a rainout on a seven-game trip through Cleveland and Boston.
  • Jarrod Washburn (0-1), who was pitching for the first time in 10 days, allowed four runs -- three earned -- and seven hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked one.
  • Kinsler has a team-leading five home runs in nine games this season. In 120 games for Texas last season, he hit 14 home runs.
  • Millwood struck out two and walked two. The only run he allowed came on Richie Sexson's one-out double in the sixth, after Ibanez singled.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Eric Gagne notches a save for the Rangers not long after being activated from the disabled list.  (AP)
Eric Gagne notches a save for the Rangers not long after being activated from the disabled list. (AP)

Players of the Game
Seattle

K. Johjima
AB 3
R 0
H 3
HR 0
RBI 0
Texas

I. Kinsler
AB 3
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 2
 
Texas Rangers
Jerry Hairston Jr., CF4210111 .375
Ian Kinsler, 2B3122110 .357
Michael Young, SS4021012 .238
Mark Teixeira, 1B4000003 .222
Sammy Sosa, DH4010010 .156
Hank Blalock, 3B4000011 .256
Nelson Cruz, RF4000011 .250
Gerald Laird, C4000010 .148
Matt Kata, LF4231000 .500
Totals3559427  
Batting
HR - Ian Kinsler (5, Washburn), Matt Kata (1, Putz)
RBI - Ian Kinsler 2 (9), Michael Young (9), Matt Kata (1)
2-OUT RBI - Ian Kinsler 2 (6), Matt Kata (1)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
DP - Kinsler-Teixeira, Blalock-Kinsler-Teixeira, Blalock-Kinsler-Teixeira
Texas Rangers
Kevin Millwood (W,2-1) 6711220 3.71
Joaquin Benoit (H,2) 1211020 1.93
Akinori Otsuka (H,1) 1100010 0.00
Eric Gagne (S,1) 1100010 0.00
HBP - Johjima (by Kevin Millwood)
Pitches-Strikes - Kevin Millwood 82-56, Joaquin Benoit 13-10, Akinori Otsuka 15-8, Eric Gagne 13-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Kevin Millwood 3-11, Joaquin Benoit 1-0, Akinori Otsuka 2-0, Eric Gagne 1-0
Batters Faced - Kevin Millwood 26, Joaquin Benoit 5, Akinori Otsuka 4, Eric Gagne 3
Seattle Mariners
Ichiro Suzuki, CF4000132 .182
Adrian Beltre, 3B5011003 .136
Jose Vidro, DH3010111 .174
Raul Ibanez, LF4120002 .227
Richie Sexson, 1B4011013 .190
Jose Guillen, RF4000012 .211
Kenji Johjima, C3030000 .412
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS4010004 .158
Jose Lopez, 2B3110001 .211
   a- Ben Broussard, PH1010000 .333
    Willie Bloomquist, PR0000000 .000
Totals35211226  
a-singled for J. Lopez in the 9th
Batting
2B - Adrian Beltre (2, Benoit), Raul Ibanez (1, Millwood), Richie Sexson (2, Millwood), Kenji Johjima (4, Otsuka)
RBI - Adrian Beltre (3), Richie Sexson (8)
Team LOB - 9
Fielding
DP - Betancourt-J. Lopez-Sexson
E - Adrian Beltre (1, Throwing)
Seattle Mariners
Jarrod Washburn (L,0-1) 6743141 3.75
Julio Mateo 1.2100110 4.91
George Sherrill 0.1000000 0.00
J.J. Putz 1111021 3.00
Pitches-Strikes - Jarrod Washburn 85-53, Julio Mateo 28-19, George Sherrill 2-2, J.J. Putz 18-12
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jarrod Washburn 8-5, George Sherrill 1-0
Batters Faced - Jarrod Washburn 25, Julio Mateo 7, George Sherrill 1, J.J. Putz 4
Game Information
Attendance - 25243
Game Time - 2:36
Temperature - 51
Umpires - Home - Ron Kulpa, First Base - Paul Emmel, Second Base - Dale Scott, Third Base - Chris Guccione