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DET@TEX: Ogando stifles Tigers, stays unbeaten

ARLINGTON -- Last season, Alexi Ogando did a lot of pitching in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, and 2011 has been similar in that regard.

The difference is Ogando's a starter now, not a setup man.

In a 7-3 victory over the Tigers on Wednesday, the converted reliever added to his impressive early career as a starter, throwing 7 2/3 innings while allowing only one run, a solo homer to the game's second batter.

"I just left a pitch right over the plate, but I never gave up, never got my head down," Ogando said through a translator. "I just kept battling and did my job."

Ogando has now pitched at least six innings in his first 12 career starts, all of them this season. That's a feat that doesn't happen often; the last pitcher to do it was injured Rangers hurler Brandon Webb, eight years ago with the D-backs.

Though Ogando put the leadoff man on in the second, third and fourth innings Wednesday, he never got into serious trouble again.

"Good pitchers minimize the damage," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He got some people on bags, but he was able to make the pitches when he had to. If you look at the first three innings, I don't think anybody would have thought he'd have made it to the eighth, but he did."

After Washington came out to pull Ogando in the eighth, his teammates on the mound seemed to be teasing him about something.

"Everybody was joking around with me because I was a little shaky early in the game," Ogando said.

Catcher Yorvit Torrealba said Ogando jokingly told the assembled conference on the mound that he had 100 more pitches left in him. He had already thrown 110, including 73 for strikes.

Ogando improved to 7-0, becoming the only pitcher in the Major Leagues this season to win his first seven decisions. He lowered his ERA to 2.10, second in the American League, and dropped his AL-leading WHIP to 0.90. He struck out seven, tying a career high, and walked two.

"He had unbelievable stuff," Tigers designated hitter Alex Avila said. "He's effectively wild. He'll throw two pitches and look lost, and then he throws one on the black at 97 mph or a slider for a strike. Not only does he have great stuff, but he can make the pitches he needs to."

Wednesday's win was Ogando's third-longest outing of the season. In his past two starts, Ogando has thrown 15 2/3 innings and allowed only two earned runs for a 1.15 ERA.

So far, the decision to make Ogando a starter, a move that came toward the end of Spring Training after Tommy Hunter was injured, looks like a stroke of genius. Though he was phenomenal in 44 relief appearances last year, allowing only 31 hits with a 1.30 ERA, he has far more of an impact as a starter.

As he walked off the mound and toward the dugout in the eighth inning, Ogando received a huge standing ovation from the 40,388 assembled at Rangers Ballpark.

Offensively, the Rangers took advantage of two Tigers errors and pounded out 12 hits. Detroit starter Phil Coke surrendered six runs -- four earned -- in five innings for the loss.

The Rangers got four runs in the third -- two on Tigers third baseman Don Kelly's throwing error and two on Josh Hamilton's double. They then added a run in the fourth, a run in the fifth and another in the seventh on Adrian Beltre's high-flying home run that hit the foul pole in left field.

Texas got away with one win in the three-game series and avoided being swept for the first time this season.

And the Ogando All-Star talk has begun.

"If he keeps pitching like this, maybe he wouldn't be denied," Washington said.

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