MLB

Mariners-Rangers Preview

The Texas Rangers turned what was supposed to be an evenly matched series for the division lead into a statement boasting that they're the team to beat in the AL West.

Suffering a letdown against the Seattle Mariners could make that a moot point.

Texas looks to win six straight for the first time in nearly four months when it opens a three-game set against visiting Seattle on Friday night.

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The Rangers (79-67) trailed Houston by 1 1/2 games entering Monday, then outscored the Astros 33-13 during a four-game sweep to climb 2 1/2 ahead in the West.

They sat two games under .500 and were fighting for the AL's second wild card on Aug. 12, but they've gone 24-10 since. Mitch Moreland delivered the biggest blow in Thursday's 8-2 win, belting a three-run homer in the third inning that put Texas ahead for good.

Shin-soo Choo matched a career high with four hits and is batting .500 over his last seven for the Rangers, who are on the verge of their first six-game winning streak since a season-high seven-game run May 20-26.

"It was definitely a complete series for us," Moreland said. "Each game seemed like a complete win. We created a lot of opportunities on the offense side, and we were able to capitalize."

Texas has averaged 7.4 runs over its last seven, a stretch that began immediately after being shut out in back-to-back games by the Mariners (71-76) on Sept. 9 and 10.

The Rangers are only 6-10 this season against Seattle, which just put a dent in another West foe's playoff hopes by taking two of three from the Los Angeles Angels.

The Mariners are hitting .273 while going 10-5 this month after Wednesday's 3-1 victory. Mark Trumbo hasn't contributed much to Seattle's improved hitting lately, though, going 2 for 20 with eight strikeouts over his last six.

He's 3 for 6 this season off Yovani Gallardo (12-10, 3.35 ERA), who looks to bounce back from a rough outing.

Gallardo went 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA over a six-start stretch capped by 5 1-3 innings that helped beat Seattle 3-0 on Sept. 7. He followed that by giving up five runs in 4 1-3 innings of Saturday's 5-3 loss to Oakland, his first defeat since July 19.

"I have to figure it out, I have to make adjustments," Gallardo said.

The right-hander should take notes from his starts against Seattle this season. He's 2-1 with a 1.56 ERA in those three outings and didn't allow a run in two of them.

James Paxton (3-4, 3.82) wasn't nearly that good the last time he faced the Rangers, giving up seven runs and 10 hits in 2 2-3 innings April 19 before the Mariners rallied for an 11-10 win.

The left-hander allowed one run over 12 2-3 innings in two starts against Texas last season, and he's hoping he can rediscover that form in his second start since spending over three months on the disabled list with a strained tendon in his left middle finger.

Paxton returned Sunday and allowed three runs - two earned - and walked three in three innings of a 3-2 loss to Colorado. The left-hander had an 85-pitch limit, but he threw only 66 despite giving up just two hits.

"It's been a long, long season waiting to get back out there," Paxton said. "If I had better fastball command and was getting ahead of guys more often it would have allowed me to go deeper in the game."

Seattle has won seven of the last 10 meetings in Arlington.