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Fister superb, slows Rangers' playoff push

Fister superb, slows Rangers' playoff push

SEATTLE -- One bad inning has often been costly for rookie right-hander Doug Fister this season. He has surrendered three or more runs in an inning eight times this season.

But he put the brakes on what could have been a game-turning inning on Sunday.

Fister was locked in a scoreless duel with Rangers right-hander Tommy Hunter in the sixth inning when it appeared that one of those frames was upon him.

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Rangers designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero hit a line drive that hit the left-field fence on one bounce. Lucky for Fister, Ryan Langerhans snagged the ricochet and gunned down Guerrero at second base.

Nelson Cruz hit the next pitch for a home run, Ian Kinsler singled, and so did Matt Moreland. But before another crooked number could ruin his day, Fister listened to what pitching coach Carl Willis had to say, got his pitches down in the strike zone, retired the next two hitters and limited the damage to one run.

It became the turning point of the series finale as the Mariners retaliated with a run in the bottom half of the sixth inning, added another run in the seventh when Langerhans tripled and scored on Josh Wilson's single to left, and notched a 2-1 victory before 20,764 at Safeco Field.

The Mariners (55-92) won the series and kept the Rangers from reducing their magic number for clinching the AL West.

"We talked a little yesterday about [Jason] Vargas giving up four two-out runs," interim manager Daren Brown said. "Fister was outstanding today shutting innings down. He gave up some hits, but I always like to think that hits don't beat you, runs beat you. I thought he did a nice job of minimizing the damage, obviously. He made some big pitches to get out of innings."

Fister (6-12, 3.83 ERA) stranded two runners in the first, third, sixth and seventh innings.

"He did a good job," Rangers third baseman Michael Young said. "He commanded the ball really well, threw quality strikes and changed speeds. But we have to take responsibility for our offense. We have to score runs no matter what."

Brown said the Mariners' 57th win of the season was all about "solid pitching, solid defense and timely hitting."

And a few words from the pitching coach.

Willis and catcher Guillermo Quiroz visited a struggling Fister after the rash of hits of sixth-inning hits. The message was clear: get the ball down.

"He will sneak up in the zone at times and becomes hittable," Brown said. "When the ball's down, they don't square up a lot of balls on him. It's a pretty simple thing for him."

But in the heat of battle, Fister has a tendency to speed up instead of slow down.

"It's all a learning process," the rookie said. "There are times when you have to slow down. You take a couple of breaths and go back and go to work. But it's about slowing down and keeping the ball down. It's a learning experience."

Quiroz commended his pitcher for making the necessary adjustment.

"He was working a lot with sinkers," he said. "He kept the ball down. The few mistakes he made got hit pretty hard, but other than that, he threw the ball great. He threw fastballs, changeups, sinkers, cutters, basically his entire repertoire."

Quiroz was making his first start of the season with Seattle, worked well with Fister, whom he had not caught since Spring Training, and made the last of several stellar defensive plays, throwing pinch-runner Esteban German out at second base for the first out in the eighth inning.

German stole 50 bases in the Minor Leagues this season.

"I thought he had a pretty good jump and I tried to release the ball as quick as I could," Quiroz said. "I was glad it was right there. On a play like that, you have to make sure the throw is right on the money or you're not going to get him. I have played against him before in the Minors, and he's a pretty aggressive runner. I kind of knew he was going to go at any minute."

The ninth inning was a little shaky for closer David Aardsma. He walked the first and third batters he faced but retired the three guys he needed, notching his 31st save in 36 save chances this season -- leaving runners on first and third.

Thanks to some stellar defensive plays by center fielder Michael Saunders and Wilson in the fourth inning, Fister sailed into the sixth with a five-hit shutout.

The inning started with Langerhans adding a defensive gem of his own, turning what looked to be a leadoff double by Guerrero into an out at second base. Langerhans fielded Guerrero's one-hop line drive off the wall in left, turned and threw a strike to Chone Figgins, who applied the tag on his former Angels teammate.

"That was a baserunning mistake right there," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "It happens. Sometimes it hurts you and sometimes it helps you."

But Cruz hit the next pitch over the fence in left field, giving Texas the lead.

"If I'd have known Cruzie was going to hit a bomb, I would told [first-base coach Gary Pettis] to throw a rope around him and hold him to first base," Washington said.

Fister would yield two more singles in the inning before dodging further damage, and the Mariners reciprocated with a run in the bottom of the inning to tie it up.

Figgins reached on an infield single--- the ball hit second base and caromed away from shortstop Elvis Andrus -- and scored on Franklin Gutierrez's double to left field.

Figgins and the ball arrived at the plate at the same time and the runner tried to drag his left hand across the plate. But it hit nothing but dirt.

The ball, however, fell out of catcher Matt Treanor's glove and Figgins got up, realized that first-base umpire Marty Foster -- who had rotated to cover the plate on the play -- had not given a safe or out sign, so hustled back to the plate and stepped on it.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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