The Texas Rangers have a big test on Saturday as they host the Felix Hernandez-led Seattle Mariners for the middle part of a three-game set at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Kyle Seager broke out of a slump with a two-run homer in the eighth inning, proving to be the difference as the Mariners edged the Rangers, 3-1, in the opener on Friday. The loss left Texas with just a half-game lead over Oakland for first place in the AL West. Seattle is 13 1/2 games back entering Saturday.
Hernandez, meanwhile, is leading the AL with a 2.28 ERA after his impressive showing against the Brewers on Sunday. He held Milwaukee to just four hits and struck out nine over eight scoreless innings to improve to 12-5.
"For sure, the first two games were tough and they scored a lot of runs," Hernandez said after Sunday's victory. "I just wanted to go out there and do what I had to do to win this game. I felt pretty good today, mixed a lot of pitches."
The Mariners have not been overwhelming offensively. Justin Smoak also hit a solo home run in Friday's win. Kendrys Morales, who leads the team with a .291 batting average, went 0-for-4 while leadoff hitter Brad Miller, Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez and Dustin Ackley all went hitless.
The bullpen made up for the lack of hitting. Yoervis Medina and Charlie Furbush combined for a scoreless eighth inning before closer Danny Farquhar, who was coming off his first blown save of the year, came in to seal the deal and clinch his sixth save of 2013.
"To be honest, it was a little hard for me to sleep that night, giving up the game how I did," Farquhar said of his loss to the Rays on Wednesday. "But I'm pretty good at having a short memory. I guess just the way I was built or something. Yesterday I had no problems, back to normal Danny, and today I was happy to get back out there and get the save."
Texas did not look strong offensively in the loss on Friday, registering just four hits and five walks. The first three batters in the lineup, Leonys Martin, Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler, went a combined 0-for-8 with four strikeouts. Adrian Beltre was responsible for two of the hits and now ranks third in the AL with a .325 batting average.
The Rangers will counter Hernandez with fellow Venezuelan, Martin Perez. The 22-year-old southpaw is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA over his last three starts. He is coming off a one-run complete game against Houston on Sunday.
"What a performance," manager Ron Washington said. "He was in control the whole game."
Perez gave up one run in 5 1/3 innings versus Seattle on July 4.
The Mariners are 6-8 versus Texas this season. The Rangers had won eight games in a row before losing two of their last three.