Rangers-Mariners Preview

The Associated Press

Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington watched as his club struggled offensively while suffering its first back-to-back losses in nearly a month.

Though hitting has been a season-long problem for the Seattle Mariners, they've done enough to give the AL West leaders fits lately.

The Rangers look to get back on track Monday night in the opener of a three-game road set with struggling Seattle, which has won five of the last seven meetings.

Texas (75-55) averaged 9.0 runs while winning five of six, but it went 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position while dropping the final two of its three-game series with the Chicago White Sox over the weekend.

Jeff Baker's two-run homer was all it could muster in Sunday's 5-2 defeat, and the Rangers will look to bounce back against a Mariners team that took two of three when these clubs met Aug. 16-18.

Texas, which hadn't lost consecutive games since a four-game skid from July 25-28 prior to Sunday, won seven of the first nine matchups this season, but Seattle has gotten the better of the recent meetings.

"More like a pain in my side," said Washington, whose club leads Oakland by 2 1/2 games atop the West. "They've always played us tough. Not just this year, they've always played us tough. It's just one team that plays us tough and they've got pitching to go along with that."

Seattle won the most recent meeting 4-3 as Kyle Seager hit a tiebreaking double in the top of the ninth. He's hitting .409 with four homers and 11 doubles versus Texas.

"You throw balls in the dirt, he hits them," Washington told the team's official website. "You throw them over his head, he hits them. I might have to walk him."

Seager, though, is just 2 for 23 with eight strikeouts over his last six after going 0 for 4 in Sunday's 7-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. The Mariners (59-70) were outscored 14-2 during the three-game sweep, giving manager Eric Wedge a rude welcome back.

"Not a great re-entry for myself here,'' Wedge said.

Seattle's .242 team average ranks 13th in the AL, and it will face Rangers starter Travis Blackley on Monday as he makes his second start of the season.

Blackley (1-1, 4.85 ERA), acquired from Houston on Aug. 14, made his first start Tuesday after 42 relief appearances with the Astros. He gave up two runs and three hits in four innings of a 4-2 win over Houston.

The left-hander was called up from Triple-A to replace Alexi Ogando, who is on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.

"He did a good job,'' Washington said. "He did what he needed to do, keep us in the game.''

Blackley, who began his major league career with Seattle in 2004, has a 1.98 ERA in one start and four relief appearances against his former team, which counters with Joe Saunders.

Saunders (10-12, 4.91) has struggled over the last month, going 1-4 with a 7.42 ERA in six starts while allowing 65 baserunners in 30 1-3 innings. He allowed four runs, 10 hits and three walks in six innings of Seattle's 7-4 win over Oakland on Tuesday.

The left-hander is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in four starts against Texas this season, though he gave up two runs - one earned - in 6 2-3 innings of a 9-2 win July 2. He went 0-6 with an 8.91 ERA in his previous seven outings versus the Rangers.

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