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SEA@TEX: Ogando hurls six scoreless, earns the win

ARLINGTON -- Alexi Ogando's current job title reads temporary starting pitcher. Give him time and he may shed the temporary part of that.

Ogando showed the calmness that made him a rookie stalwart during the Rangers' World Series run last season, proving to be unfazed from the outset in Tuesday night's 3-2 victory over Seattle that pushed Texas to 5-0 for the first time since 1996.

Ogando delivered six scoreless innings in his first Major League start. The unflappable Dominican allowed just two hits. He kept his poise until the last pitch -- he did pump his fist into his glove when he struck out Mariners cleanup hitter Jack Cust with a runner on first to end the top of the sixth.

"I had to be emotional," Ogando said. "They had a man on base. I had to get that last out. That's why I had a good feeling."

Ogando is the first Rangers pitcher to go at least six shutout innings in his first start since Brian Sikorski had seven scoreless innings on Aug. 16, 2000, against the New York Yankees. That was Sikorski's best and only big moment with Texas.

Ogando showed last year as a reliever, and Tuesday night as a starter, that he has good enough to stuff to be a key part of the pitching staff for years to come.

The 27-year- old right-hander who had to wait out visa issues for five years had the second-lowest ERA of all Major League pitchers in 2010 with a 1.30 ERA. It was the lowest in Rangers history among pitchers with at least 40 innings.

He entered Rangers camp as a contender for the rotation, but was slotted for the bullpen late in the spring. When Tommy Hunter strained his right groin, Ogando was placed in the rotation. With more starts like this, Ogando will be hard to return to the 'pen.

Rangers manager Ron Washington thought Ogando would have the jitters in the top of the first, but he didn't. He worked around a two-out single to Milton Bradley, getting Cust to fly out to right field.

"After that, it was just a baseball game for him," Washington said. "His stuff is good. He feels nothing out there. When I say he feels nothing, he's not overwhelmed with the situation. I thought in the first inning he might be antsy. He was the same Ogando we saw coming out of the bullpen."

Ogando hangs around Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, who also has shown poise from Day 1 with the Rangers, setting the rookie saves record last season. Some of Feliz's demeanor has rubbed off on Ogando, Washington said, but the right-hander also credits a family member.

"I always get asked the question why I look so calm out there," Ogando said. "My mother, she was always like that when I was a kid. Maybe I got it from her."

Ogando allowed just two hits -- the single to Bradley in the first inning and a one-out double to Adam Kennedy in the fifth inning. Neither ball was hit particularly hard. Kennedy gave Ogando somewhat of a nice review after the game.

"He's got a good nice crisp fastball and a good little slider," Kennedy said. "I didn't see any changeups, but those are two good pitches he's got. He's a little erratic, which works in his favor."

Ogando had a slight scare in the sixth inning, when Washington and trainer Kevin Harmon visited the mound after a two-out walk to Bradley. But Ogando remained in the game despite what was announced as a small blister on his right index finger. He struck out Cust on a 94-mph rising fastball.

After Ogando wrapped up his night, the Rangers' bullpen nearly lost the lead. The combination of Mark Lowe and Darren Oliver allowed four straight hits in the top of the seventh inning as Seattle cut the deficit to 3-2.

The Rangers survived the inning as Julio Borbon made a diving catch in shallow center field with the bases loaded to end the Mariners' threat. It appeared that Borbon didn't get a good read on the ball off the bat, but he said he froze as he's been taught to do, then he made a mad dash that resulted in him diving on his chest to make the catch.

"It's one of those you don't really see of the bat, the sound is kind of tricky," Borbon said. "It's not one of those that's more driven, but you don't want to commit too early on going back on it and have it drop in front. I immediately froze and as soon as I realized it was hit in, I just went all in for it."

Oliver bounced back in the top of the eighth with a perfect inning, needing just five pitches to get three ground-ball outs. And Feliz got three straight outs for his second save in as many nights.

The Rangers needed the solid pitching of Ogando and the bullpen because, for the first time this season, the offense was held under five runs. A lot of that was because Mariners rookie Michael Pineda was equally as dazzling, allowing a hit in his first five innings (Pineda also went six innings for Seattle).

Nelson Cruz, who had homered in each of the Rangers' first four games, went hitless. Mitch Moreland, the least experienced hitter in the Rangers' lineup, provided a key hit early. Moreland had a two-out RBI triple in the bottom of the second for a 1-0 lead, and he also had a double off Pineda in the fifth.

The Rangers got to the rookie in the bottom of the sixth, adding two runs on RBI doubles by Josh Hamilton and Michael Young.

If the offense isn't going to be there every night -- Washington prophetically said before the game he'd like to win a 3-2 game -- the back of the Rangers' rotation is going to be the key to the season.

So far, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Ogando have all offered up quality starts. They have combined to allow four earned runs in 19 innings.

Harrison, who allowed one run in seven innings against Boston on Sunday, and Ogando had similar first starts in Washington's estimation.

"I thought they were similar in the way they changed speeds," Washington said. "They moved the ball around very well. They kept the ball down. That was the key, they kept the ball down." Comments