Rangers-Mariners preview

SEATTLE -- The Texas Rangers left little doubt about which team is the American League West favorite last weekend when they swept the Seattle Mariners to take a three-game lead atop the division.

Beginning Friday, the Mariners get another chance to prove that they are a legitimate contender for the AL West crown.

Second-place Seattle (33-27) is now a full four games behind Texas in the division standings, thanks in large part to last weekend's sweep. For obvious reasons, the Mariners hope to put up a better fight this time around.

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After dropping the series finale to the Cleveland Indians on Thursday night, the Seattle players were already looking forward.

"I'm one to put this game away and be ready for a fun weekend," Mariners star Robinson Cano said late Thursday night.

The Rangers are riding a wave of success as they head into this weekend's series at Safeco Field, but manager Jeff Banister isn't guaranteeing any carryover.

"Every wave hits a beach," he told The Dallas Morning News after his team's series-clinching win over the Houston Astros on Thursday afternoon. "But there's another one right after it."

The Rangers (37-23) have plenty of reasons to be confident heading into the series after dumping the Mariners by an aggregate 20-9 score one week earlier.

Texas played most of that series without second baseman Rougned Odor, who is back from a seven-game suspension, but now there is concern about whether third baseman Adrian Beltre will be available. A hamstring injury sidelined Beltre on Thursday, and he is day-to-day heading into the weekend.

The Mariners might get a boost to their lineup if they activate center fielder Leonys Martin on Friday. Martin, a former Ranger who is hitting .262 this season, is eligible to come off the disabled list after battling a sore hamstring.

Martin and 22-year-old shortstop Ketel Marte were coming into their own offensively before landing on the disabled list late last month. Neither played in the Texas series last weekend, but the Mariners could have both players back for the rematch.

Seattle's pitching could be an even bigger story. The Mariners' starters got hit hard in the first two games of the series last week before Hisashi Iwakuma came through with a solid outing in last Sunday's finale. Iwakuma (4-5) is scheduled to be back on the mound Friday after allowing just one earned run on four hits in seven innings against the Rangers his last time out.

Seattle left-handers James Paxton and Wade Miley, who are scheduled to start Saturday and Sunday, respectively, bounced back from rough outings to pitch well in the Cleveland series.

Texas will also start two left-handers in the series, with Derek Holland scheduled to go Friday and Cole Hamels on Sunday. Right-hander Colby Lewis is scheduled to start Saturday.

Iwakuma owns strong career numbers against Texas, an 8-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 17 games (16 starts).

Holland has been equally sharp against Seattle, posting an identical 3.35 ERA to go with a 12-4 mark in 23 games (19 starts). He beat the Mariners last Sunday, allowing two runs on three hits in seven innings.

"Obviously, establishing the fastball was a huge thing and kind of working off that, changing eye levels and mixing in and out was a big thing," Holland said after the victory. "I've got to let my defense do their work, and I felt like I did a good job of that by attacking the strike zone."