ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux describes Robbie Ross Jr. as a guy who has "never had a bad day" in the Major Leagues.
But even Ross, who walks around the ballpark with a perpetual smile on his face, had to admit that Jackie Robinson Day, 2014, was extra special for him.
Ross pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings and earned his first victory as a starter in a 5-0 victory over the Mariners on Tuesday night. Prince Fielder's first home run of the season, followed by Kevin Kouzmanoff a few moments later, gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the second and Ross took it from there.
"It was awesome," Ross said. "To get the first one out of the way, especially on a very special day like today, Jackie Robinson Day, it was very special."
The shutout was the Rangers' fourth in their last nine games as they lead the Major Leagues in that department. Rangers pitchers also have a 2.71 ERA in their last nine games -- 2.26 by the starters -- in helping keep things afloat while the offense tries to get going.
"They have been great lately, definitely," Fielder said.
"All of our pitchers are starting to come around," manager Ron Washington said. "The bullpen has been doing a good job and our starters are keeping us in ballgames. Robbie tonight did exactly what he needed to do."
What Ross wanted to do was attack the Mariners with his fastball, keep the ball in the strike zone and get quick outs. He did exactly that either with the cutter, sinker and occasional slider, holding the Mariners to five hits. He hit two batters but did not walk anybody and got 16 ground balls.
"That's what I try to do," Ross said. "I try to go out there and attack them. If it starts happening where they're swinging and hitting it and pounding it all over the place, then maybe switch things up. Tonight we were making plays for me so I was just attacking them and doing the best I could."
Ross, who walked six in his last start in Boston, threw 90 pitches and 59 were strikes. His only two strikeouts were on the first two hitters of the game.
"He was able to get in on us and kind of mix it up," Mariners shortstop Brad Miller said. "He was cutting and sinking it with some good offspeed pitches. We really just didn't string together good at-bats off him. Credit to him, but we were battling and our relievers kept it close. We just couldn't string it together off him."
"I was just trying to get some quick outs and get us back in the dugout quickly," Ross said. "I was trying not to be too fine and pick and hit little spots. I was trying to work as quick as I can and get outs and have my guys make plays behind me … not put too much pressure on myself trying to strike everybody out."
Ross also didn't have to wait until later in the game for his run support as he did in two previous starts. Fielder hit a 1-1 fastball from Mariners starter Blake Beavan deep to right-center to lead off the second inning to give the Rangers a 1-0 advantage. He had gone 51 at-bats to start the season without a home run before that blast, but also 109 at-bats going back to last year with the Tigers, including postseason.
"It means a lot," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "We knew that was going to happen. I don't want to lead the team in homers. It feels good. When you see the big boy start feeling better, it's going to make the whole team start feeling better. Really happy to have it, especially in that moment. We were 0-0 and after that you saw the whole team and the whole offense change a little bit."
Kouzmanoff followed with his first home run for the Rangers. It's the first time the Rangers have hit more than one home run in a game this season. Kouzmanoff also had a two-run double in the eighth and is now 9-for-20 (.450) in six games while Adrian Beltre is on the disabled list with a strained left quad muscle.
"I'm trying to get a good pitch to hit and hit it hard," Kouzmanoff said. "Unfortunately Beltre got hurt so right now I'm playing third. They are big shoes to fill but I'm trying to do the best I can."
His starting pitcher did the same and it made for a special night on Jackie Robinson Day in Arlington.
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.