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06/08/10 1:57 AM ET

Feldman's short night hurts Rangers

Harrison's strong relief work comes too late for Texas

ARLINGTON -- Seattle struck for three second-inning runs on Monday night on a Michael Saunders three-run home run, and that proved to be all the runs Mariners starter Cliff Lee needed, as he tossed a complete-game, 4-2 victory over Texas.

Scott Feldman started for the Rangers, and from the beginning, it was a struggle. He needed 21 pitches to scrape through the first inning, and in the second, he gave up two singles and Saunders' homer.

"The second was pretty much the game right there," Feldman said. "I got better after the second, but that was pretty much it. I got ahead of some guys, but I couldn't finish them off. I have to do a better job of finishing guys off."

Manager Ron Washington concurred after the Rangers' loss coupled with the Angels' 4-2 win over the A's pushed Texas one-half game back in the American League West.

"After that second inning, he kind of settled in," Washington said. "One bad inning. He wasn't getting any help from the ump."

In the end, Feldman lasted 5 2/3 innings, throwing 120 pitches. He allowed nine hits and four runs (three earned). His ERA is now 5.73. It was his seventh consecutive non-quality start, and he has recorded just three quality starts in 12 appearances this season.

Rangers starters have now lasted fewer than six full innings in seven of the past 13 games and have an ERA of 5.67 over that span. The Rangers' bullpen made nine appearances and threw eight innings over the weekend against Tampa Bay. Feldman's outing taxed the relievers for 3 1/3 more innings on Monday night. The relief corps has been really good -- tied for first in wins and fifth in the league in bullpen ERA before Monday's game -- but the workload has to be taking its toll.

Matt Harrison, who had always been a starter, returned from the disabled list on May 29 and was shuttled to the bullpen. He entered in relief of Feldman for his third bullpen appearance and was sharp, keeping the Rangers in the game by retiring the first eight batters he faced and keeping Seattle off the scoreboard. Perhaps more importantly, he spared the 'pen from any more appearances on the evening.

Feldman is definitely aware of the strain the short starts is putting on the relief corps, saying, "Luckily, [Harrison] came in, and we didn't have to burn too many guys in the bullpen."

Washington was pleased with Harrison's work on Monday, but he is not considering a return to the rotation for the lefty.

"I don't think we need him in the rotation right now," Washington said.

But Harrison said he doesn't mind relieving. If his choice is starting at Triple-A Oklahoma City or relieving for the Rangers, he said, "I'd rather be here."

But at game's end, the Rangers' pitching may not have made much difference considering Lee's magnificent performance. He scattered seven hits over the nine innings, all singles, which ended a streak of 19 consecutive Rangers games with at least one double. The win was Lee's fourth of the season -- the fifth time he's pitched at least eight innings in nine 2010 starts and his sixth win in 10 career starts against the Rangers.

One impressive statistic is that he threw just 23 balls among his 107 pitches. That's far less than one per batter as he faced 35 Rangers. Texas hitters are often criticized for their lack of plate discipline, but Washington wasn't criticizing them Monday night, instead giving all the credit to Lee.

"Being patient just got you down in the count," Washington said. "[Lee] threw strikes. He's a finisher. Once he got a lead, he finished it off. When we did put a ball in play, someone was there to catch it."

Dic Humphrey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.