The Texas Rangers look to increase their lead in the American League West standings today as they visit Safeco Field to take on the Seattle Mariners in the rubber match of a three-game set.
Felix Hernandez threw a three-hit shutout and struck out 12 Texas batters on Saturday to help the Mariners to a series evening 7-0 victory. John Jaso hit a solo home run and had two RBI while Michael Saunders and Kyle Seager drove in two runs each for Seattle in the triumph.
Starting Sunday, Seattle will face four left-handed starters in a row. Jaso is only 1-for-21 against southpaws this season, but he is 3-for-4 in the first two games of the series so far.
"He's a good hitter," said Seattle's manager Eric Wedge. "He hasn't had much of an opportunity against lefties. But when you talk about the way he approaches the ball, I think it's safe to say he won't be sitting all of those games. You will see him play."
Hoping to mirror King Felix's spectacular Saturday performance for Seattle will be Hisashi Iwakuma. The right-hander spent the past three months as a long reliever. Iwakuma gave up three runs and three hits in five innings in a spot start versus Baltimore on July 2.
The Rangers will counter with left-hander Matt Harrison. The southpaw will look to win his AL-leading 12th game in his first appearance since the All- Star break. He comes in with an 11-4 record and a 3.10 ERA after giving up eight hits and two runs in eight innings to the White Sox on July 5.
"First start in the second half, I want to carry over what I was doing from the first half," Harrison said. "Keep doing what I was doing and stay on a roll. I just want to stay with the same mental focus I've had in the last eight or nine starts and continue to get better."
Harrison is 8-1 with a 2.51 career ERA against the Mariners. He beat them in back-to-back starts in May, posting a 1.80 ERA and a total of 12 strikeouts in those games. No batter on Seattle's roster with more than six at-bats against Harrison is hitting above .300.
The Rangers offense, which leads the MLB in runs and batting average, will need to rebound from two poor performances to pick up the series victory today. Texas is 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position in the series so far.
Elvis Andrus, Michael Young, and Yorvit Torrealba were the only Texas batters who managed to get a hit against Hernandez on Saturday.
The Rangers' three, four, and five hitters were ineffective on Saturday. Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, and Nelson Cruz all went 0-for-3 at the plate. Beltre struck out once while Cruz and Hamilton struck out in all three of their at- bats.
Hamilton is batting just .175 in July and has driven in just two runs this month. He still is tied with Toronto's Jose Bautista for the MLB lead with 27 home runs and has an outright lead with 75 RBI in 2012. Hamilton hit an RBI double in his only at-bat versus Iwakuma in his career.
Today's game will be the 13th anniversary of Safeco Field since the ballpark opened its doors on July 15, 1999. Beltre and Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki are tied for fifth all-time with 53 home runs at Safeco Field.
The Mariners and Rangers have split there 12 regular season meetings in 2012.