SEATTLE -- First of all, Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish said his 12-day layoff had nothing to do with what happened against the Mariners."I still felt game-ready," Darvish said. "I didn't feel any effects of the 12 days of rest." Manager Ron Washington also bristled at the suggestion that Darvish's time off led to his lack of command in a 7-0 loss to the Mariners on Saturday night at Safeco Field. "That's an excuse, and we don't make excuses in Texas," Washington said. "He didn't get it done, and we didn't get it done." No, they didn't. Darvish gave up four runs in the first inning, and that was more than enough for Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. He held the Rangers to three hits and no walks while striking out 12 in the sixth shutout of his career. "Giving up a four-spot in the first inning against a very good pitcher, that's tough," Darvish said. "All of a sudden, I put our offense in a tough situation." The Rangers, despite having their three-game winning streak snapped, still have a five-game lead over the Angels in the American League West. This was only the second time the Rangers have been shut out this season, but it was the ninth straight game in which they scored four runs or fewer. Darvish, despite the rough start, was able to give the Rangers 6 1/3 innings and 106 pitches. But he never found any kind of extended groove of rhythm. Instead, he gave up a season-high seven runs and has now lost two straight starts. He is 10-6 with a 3.96 ERA on the season. He is also 1-2 with a 9.00 ERA in three starts against Mariners while allowing 13 runs in 101/3 innings in two starts at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. The Mariners entered the game having scored the second fewest runs and had the second-lowest team batting average in the American League. "We have a pretty good approach against him, it seems like," catcher John Jaso said. "That's a good approach to have against any pitcher. He wasn't really getting his offspeed stuff over for strikes, and that was hurting him, I think. It was good we laid off that." Darvish began his evening by throwing three straight balls to Dustin Ackley and then walking him on a full-count pitch. Ichiro Suzuki followed with a single to to right, moving Ackley to third. Ichiro advanced to second on a wild pitch and then Darvish hit Casper Wells to load the bases. That brought up Jaso, and Darvish walked him on four pitches to force in a run. At that point, Darvish had missed the strike zone on 10 of 15 fastballs thrown. "Early on, I really struggled to throw strikes," said Darvish, who has issued 14 first-inning walks in 17 starts this season. "His command was not good. That's what hurt him in the first inning," Washington said. "That's one of the things that he's going to have to work on." Michael Saunders then hit a high chopper that tipped off first baseman Michael Young's glove for an error. Darvish got Justin Smoak to pop out to third baseman Adrian Beltre, but Kyle Seager singled to left to drive home two runs. Darvish, with Michael Kirkman warming up in bullpen, struck out the next two hitters to avoid being pulled. "It wasn't going to let him sit out there and give up six or seven runs," Washington said. But the Rangers were down, 4-0, against a pitcher who had held them to one run in eight innings on May 21, and they hadn't scored more than four runs in a game since a 7-2 victory over the Athletics on June 30. They didn't get any against Hernandez and were shut out for the second time this season. "He's always had great stuff and tonight was even better than usual," outfielder David Murphy said. "He got a four-run lead and definitely used it to his advantage by pounding the strike zone. Tonight was his night." The Mariners weren't done against Darvish. They added one in the fourth when Seager led off with a walk and scored on a two-out double by Ackley. Jaso's home run in the fifth made it 6-0. Darvish came out after allowing a one-out RBI double to Saunders. His previous season-high was six runs in a 7-1 loss to Oakland on June 7.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.