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Lewis blanks Seattle over 6 2/3 innings

ARLINGTON -- New Rangers closer Joe Nathan has pitched in back-to-back games twice in this first week of the season.

The results have not been good.

Nathan suffered his second straight loss when taking the mound for a second straight day, this time giving up three runs in the top of the ninth as the Mariners rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Rangers.

On Saturday, Nathan -- working for a second straight day -- gave up a tiebreaking home run in the ninth inning to Alex Rios in a 4-3 loss to the White Sox. He now has two saves and two losses -- one of them a blown save -- in his first four appearances with the Rangers. Nathan knows 50 percent won't come close to getting it done as a closer.

The 37-year-old Nathan, historically one of baseball's best relievers pitching on consecutive days, was adamant after Wednesday's collapse that pitching back to back has not been the issue.

"This absolutely had nothing to do with it," said Nathan. "Neither did the last outing. The first one came down to one pitch. It was the right pitch [to Rios], to be honest with you.

"Tonight, I felt great. My arm felt live. I had a decent fastball. I don't think anybody was on my fastball. It shows they might have been sitting on my breaking balls."

Nathan's concern was that the Mariners were waiting for his out pitch -- his slider. He was either leaving them a little up in the strike zone, or getting them in at the knees where Mariners hitters were ready to hack.

Justin Smoak, whom the Rangers traded to the Mariners two years ago, started the rally with a single on a two-seam fastball. Kyle Seager followed by ripping a 2-1 slider into right field to put the tying runs on base.

Jesus Montero then got three fastballs and on the third one smashed a sacrifice fly to right field to cut the Rangers' lead to 3-2. Nathan went back to the slider on a 1-1 pitch to Michael Saunders and he lined a double into center field to tie the game. It was another slider Nathan felt wasn't precise enough against Mariners hitters.

"It's gotta be a chase pitch," Nathan said. "It's gotta be something that if they're going to be aggressive to a certain type of pitch, you can't throw strikes."

Nathan struck out Brendan Ryan for the second out, but after getting two called strikes on his curve ball, he threw a third one to John Jaso, who hit a single into center field for a 4-3 lead.

"He threw me a lot of curveballs," Jaso said. "I knew what he was doing. Being a catcher, I was trying to think along the lines of him being a veteran guy. He doesn't let his pride get in the way. He knows there's bases open right there, and me being a left-handed hitter, he didn't have to throw me a strike. I think the ball he threw me he was trying to bury it in the dirt. I was lucky he made a mistake and I was glad I was ready to capitalize on it."

The Rangers threatened in the bottom of the ninth, as they had the tying run on second with one out. But Ian Kinsler struck out and Elvis Andrus lined out to first to end the game.

Nathan's struggles spoiled another great outing by a Rangers starting pitcher -- this time Colby Lewis, who pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings.

The Rangers padded a 1-0 lead when Kinsler and Andrus slammed back-to-back home runs with two outs in the seventh.

For Kinsler, whose five-year, $75 million contract extension was made official Wednesday, it was his third home run of the season. For Andrus, who was in a 2-for-22 slump, it was his first of 2012 and the 12th of his career.

Lewis followed up his Opening Day win with another strong outing. Lewis had a good fastball and changeup, striking out six while allowing five hits.

The Rangers have opened the season with five quality starts and a rotation ERA of 1.92, the lowest in the American League.

The Rangers need their closer to match that. After the game, Nathan's teammates stood behind him.

"It's nothing he can't bounce back from," Lewis said. "It's nothing we can't bounce back from."

Added Rangers team leader Michael Young: "We all have faith in Joe. We look forward to getting him another lead and getting him back out there."

Nathan said he looks forward to looking at the video and getting back to work. He reminisced on his first season with Minnesota in 2004, when had a 10.00 ERA in the season's second week. He's gone on to have the third best save percentage in baseball history among closers with 175 save opportunities, behind Mariano Rivera and Francisco Rodriguez.

"I've done a good job of making adjustments and coming back from bad outings," Nathan said. "I can usually get a lot more out of bad outings than I do the good ones. Hopefully I can do the same."

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