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TEX@DET: Ogando allows two hits over seven frames

DETROIT -- Alexi Ogando had been brilliant all afternoon and his team had just scored two runs in the top of the seventh, but a blister on his right index finger was becoming quite painful. That wasn't good, considering the Tigers were bringing up three All-Stars to face him in the bottom of the inning.

Ogando didn't let the blister affect him. He wasn't fazed all afternoon by matching up against Tigers ace Justin Verlander. Nor did he appear too concerned by having Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez getting ready to hit. Ogando hasn't let anything bother him since his last-minute shift to the rotation at the end of Spring Training.

Ogando's nine-pitch, 1-2-3 shutdown seventh inning was his finest moment on a cool, windy afternoon when he combined with Darren Oliver and Neftali Feliz for a 2-0 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park on Monday. Ogando emerged victorious in a terrific pitching duel over Verlander as the Rangers pitched their second straight shutout.

"Impressive, but that's what he does," manager Ron Washington said after Ogando won his second straight start. "He has good stuff and he has good command. He pounded the strike zone and didn't change anything from the first to the seventh. He followed the game plan to a T. He was good today."

Ogando has been terrific for a pitcher who was originally deemed too valuable as a setup reliever to move into the rotation. At this rate though, he may never see the bullpen again -- except to use it to warm up for his next start.

"It's still the same," Ogando said. "I'm just trying to make my pitches, throw strikes and make the team work behind me. I'm not trying to strike anybody out. I'm just trying to get outs."

Ogando has not allowed a run in 13 innings over his first two starts going back to six scoreless against the Mariners last Tuesday in Arlington. Rangers pitchers, after Oliver and Feliz shut down the Tigers for the final two innings, have worked 25 consecutive scoreless innings. It's the longest since a 33-inning scoreless streak in 2008.

Washington said Ogando could have gone nine if not for the blister. Ogando, having thrown throwing 79 pitches, was developing some fluid under a callus, and the Rangers decided seven was enough. Ogando had the blister popped after the game and he is expected to be ready for his next start.

"It's good now," Ogando said. "In the sixth, it started itching and bothering me. In the seventh, they made the decision to come out because it hurt."

"We didn't want to take a chance ... we want to make sure we keep this guy around," Washington said.

No kidding. Ogando allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out four. He retired the side in order in five of seven innings and set down the last 10 batters he faced.

"He's got great stuff," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He throws 94-95 mph with a good breaking ball. He attacks you pretty good. He was tremendous, he really was. And so was Verlander. They were both tremendous. They were just a little bit better than we were."

Verlander was outstanding for his first six innings, allowing just one single to Josh Hamilton. But the Rangers finally broke through in the seventh after Elvis Andrus flied out to lead off the inning. Hamilton started the rally with a walk and Adrian Beltre grounded a single through the left side, putting runners on first and second.

"We were just trying to make him throw strikes, which he does," Hamilton said. "We missed some fastballs and some we hit got caught up in the wind. Fortunately Ogando kept us even until we could string two or three hits together."

Michael Young followed with a line drive toward deep right field into a steady brisk wind that had been frustrating the Rangers all afternoon. This one stayed low though and sailed over Ordonez's head for a double. Hamilton came around to score to give the Rangers a lead.

"It was obvious from the beginning that balls weren't carrying well," Young said. "I was just hoping that ball would sneak over his head. It was a total pitching duel. Both guys were throwing extremely well, and in a game like that, you want to make sure you get one run across."

A two-out RBI double later in the inning by Mitch Moreland made it 2-0, and Ogando responded with his best work of the afternoon. Facing the Tigers' three best hitters in the bottom of the seventh, Ogando set them down in order on nine pitches, getting Ordonez on a pop to right, Cabrera on a pop to second and Martinez on a grounder to first.

"I knew I was going to have to come after them aggressively, and I did," Ogando said.

He has been that way for 13 innings over his first two Major League starts. At some point, he might just get accustomed to this new role.

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