Rangers eye a division crown in opener with Mariners

The Texas Rangers are on the cusp of their second straight game series versus the Seattle Mariners at the Ballpark in Arlington.

Texas is five games ahead of the LA Angels of Anaheim in the division standings and can wrap up consecutive AL West titles for the first time since 1998-99 with a victory tonight and loss by the Angels to Oakland.

The Rangers had a four-game winning streak stopped with Thursday's 4-3 setback to the A's in the finale of a three-game set, as Adrian Beltre and David Murphy both drove in runs and Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Yorvit Torrealba had two hits apiece for the Rangers.

Mike Adams allowed the go-ahead run in the eighth to suffer the loss and Colby Lewis tossed 6 1/3 innings of three-run ball in the no-decision.

"That's the way it goes. You hope that you can sweep somebody, but sometimes that doesn't happen," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "They played a pretty good game today, so you have to give them credit."

Matt Harrison gets the ball for the Rangers tonight and he has won three straight trips to the mound. He is coming off Sunday's 3-0 win at Seattle and struck out nine batters over 6 1/3 scoreless innings to improve to 13-9 in 29 games (28 starts) this season. The lefty is 5-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 12 games (8 starts) lifetime against the Mariners.

Seattle will try to keep Texas' champagne bottles on ice tonight and had won three in a row before suffering a 3-2 loss at Minnesota on Thursday in the conclusion of a three-game set from Target Field.

Justin Smoak collected three hits and an RBI for the Mariners, while Ichiro Suzuki singled, scored a run and also knocked in one run. Blake Beaven started for the Mariners and was reached for a pair of runs in seven innings of work for the no-decision. Steve Delabar was dealt the loss, allowing one run in 1 1/3 innings of work.

"Today was a tough one of course. We were rolling the last few games and I got in a situation where I put a guy on for free and I left a ball out there and the other guy hit it where he was supposed to," Delabar said of allowing the go-ahead run.

Seattle rookie Anthony Vazquez draws the assignment tonight and he's 1-4 with an 8.25 earned run average in five starts. He has dropped four straight starts since winning his major league debut on Aug. 23 at Cleveland last took the hill in Saturday's 7-6 setback against the Rangers in which he permitted five runs and seven hits in only three innings.

Opposing batters are hitting .330 against the young left-hander. Vasquez is 1-1 in two road starts.

Texas is a dominant 12-4 against the Mariners this season.