SEATTLE (AP) Take away one ugly start and the pitching of Chris Flexen has proved to be one of the Seattle Mariners' pleasant developments through the first two months of the season.
His latest outing may have been his best.
Flexen threw seven shutdown innings and was backed by home runs from Tom Murphy and Jacob Nottingham in the Mariners' 5-0 win over the Texas Rangers 5-0 on Thursday night.
Flexen used a mix of his fastball and cutter to silence the Rangers and rebound from his worst start of the year with his best performance since returning from a stint in South Korea.
''He was certainly disappointed and frustrated with his last outing. He got banged around pretty good by a very good team,'' Seattle manager Scott Servais said. ''But came in tonight very focused, was really going to get after it with the cutter. It was a successful pitch last time he pitched against Texas and I thought his cutter was better tonight than it was down there a few weeks ago. So ton of credit to him.''
The big right-hander scattered three hits, and only Willie Calhoun advanced past first base when his slicing triple evaded Jarred Kelenic's diving attempt in the sixth inning.
Flexen (5-2) struck out six and walked only one. His outing was a stark turnaround from his last outing against San Diego when Flexen failed to make it out of the second inning, giving up 10 hits and eight earned runs while recording just five outs.
It was an outlier in what otherwise has been a solid return for Flexen from pitching overseas. He's allowed one earned run or less in five of his nine starts.
''It was just trying to get back on track and mentally stay locked in and not let that one affect you,'' Flexen said.
Rafael Montero and Keynan Middleton finished off Seattle's fourth shutout of the season. Rangers manager Chris Woodward was flustered by the approach and results at the plate, especially after losing to Flexen earlier this month in Texas.
''We're a big league offense. We've got to obviously pride ourselves in doing a better job than that,'' Woodward said. ''That's the type of guy we feel like we can we can handle pretty well.''
Seattle's bats continued to be sporadic, but there was enough offense in moments. Murphy and Nottingham went deep back-to-back in the third inning off starter Kolby Allard.
The Mariners didn't get another hit until Ty France's broken-bat single leading off the seventh, but it was the start of a three-run outburst. Jack Mayfield greeted reliever Brett Martin with a two-run double and Mitch Haniger added an RBI single.
Haniger nearly hit his 14th homer of the season in the first inning, only to have it stolen at the wall by Adolis Garcia.
The two solo homers were the only hits allowed by Allard (1-1) in his first start of the season. Allard had not pitched more than three innings in a game this season, but went four innings and struck out four.
''I felt pretty strong one through four. I hadn't thrown into the fourth this year so I didn't think they were going to let me go too much past that, but I felt good pretty much all the way through,'' Allard said.
Seattle continued to rotate bodies through its bullpen on Thursday, selecting veteran lefty Hector Santiago and recalling left-hander Daniel Zamora from Triple-A Tacoma. The Mariners optioned right-hander Wyatt Mills and Yohan Ramirez after several days of heavy bullpen use. Seattle also designated for assignment right-hander Sam Delaplane.
Santiago has pitched with four teams in the majors. He split the 2019 season between the New York Mets and Chicago White Sox, appearing in 19 total games going 1-1 with a 6.68 ERA.
Rangers: RHP Kohei Arihara underwent surgery Thursday to remove an aneurysm in his right arm. The surgery was performed by vascular surgeon Dr. Gregory Pearl in Dallas and removed the aneurysm and repaired the artery. The Rangers said Arihara will have a follow-up visit in about a month with no throwing in the interim. ... RHP Hunter Wood returned to his home in Arkansas for the birth of his fourth child and will be further evaluated on his return.
Mariners: LHP Marco Gonzales (forearm strain) is expected to return to the rotation next Tuesday against Oakland, Servais said. Gonzales will be a limited pitch count to start.
Rangers: RHP Jordan Lyles (2-3, 5.94) had thrown six innings in each of his past two starts. The Rangers have won four of the past five games started by Lyles.
Mariners: LHP Justus Sheffield (3-4, 5.11) looks to rebound after a poor start in his last outing against San Diego. Sheffield walked a season-high five and matched a season-high with five earned runs allowed in a loss to the Padres.
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