Mariners-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

Following his team's dreadful stretch at the plate in July, Adrian Beltre has been on a tear that's helped the Texas Rangers return to the top of the AL West.

If Beltre can match his performance from the last time he faced Hisashi Iwakuma, the Rangers certainly stand a better chance of continuing their run Friday night against the visiting Seattle Mariners.

After averaging 2.4 runs and batting .232 while dropping 12 of 15 from July 10-28, Texas has turned things around by scoring 5.8 per game and hitting .285 during a 14-2 stretch.

"We never feel like we're out of the game - we play all nine innings,'' said Ian Kinsler, whose two-run single in the seventh inning was the difference in Wednesday's 5-4 win over Milwaukee.

The Rangers (70-51) trailed Oakland by six games in the division as recently as July 29, but the hot stretch has moved them 1 1/2 ahead of the Athletics.

Beltre has played a key role in the resurgence, batting .426 with 15 RBIs during that 16-game span. He's also hitting .423 with two homers in his last six games against the Mariners (55-65), who have dropped 12 of 18 following Thursday's 7-1 defeat at Tampa Bay.

Iwakuma (10-6, 3.02 ERA) will try to provide a lift for a Seattle rotation that has a 5.26 ERA in those 18 contests. He surrendered a pair of home runs to Beltre in a 5-4 loss in Arlington on July 4, and the third baseman is 6 for 17 lifetime in this matchup.

After going 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA over his previous five starts, the right-hander hopes to regroup following one of his worst outings. He matched a season high by allowing six runs - all in the seventh inning - and a season-worst nine hits over 6 2-3 innings in a 10-0 loss to Milwaukee on Saturday.

Iwakuma has yielded three runs and eight hits over 14 2-3 innings against the Rangers in two home starts - both Seattle victories - but he gave up four runs over six-plus innings in the July loss at Texas.

The Rangers counter with Derek Holland (9-6, 3.07), who is 4-2 with a 2.53 ERA in his last nine starts. He allowed three runs and six hits over six innings before leaving without a decision in Saturday's 5-4 win at Houston.

Although Holland is 7-1 with a 2.74 ERA in 13 road starts, he's 2-5 with a 3.48 ERA in 11 at home.

The left-hander has pitched well against the Mariners, going 7-2 with a 3.34 ERA in 11 starts. He's limited them to two earned runs with 20 strikeouts over 12 2-3 innings in two meetings this season.

Michael Saunders (0 for 11) and Dustin Ackley (3 for 19) haven't been able to figure out Holland, but Kyle Seager is batting .353 with a home run in 17 career at-bats.

Seager is hitting .418 (23 for 55) versus the Rangers this season, while Ackley has gone 5 for 40 (.125).

Seattle has dropped eight of 13 against Texas this year, including four of six in Arlington.

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