(Sports Network) - Tommy Hunter's first start in the majors of 2010 turned out to be well worth the wait. The Texas Rangers pitcher will be hoping for an equally-impressive encore when he takes the mound for the current American League West front-runners in tonight's finale of a four-game series with the visiting Seattle Mariners.
Hunter dazzled in his season debut with Texas last Saturday, with the right- hander going the distance on a five-hitter to lead his club to a 6-1 triumph over AL East-leading Tampa Bay at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. He struck out four and did not walk a batter in a 117-pitch display that represented his second career complete game.
"It was just a matter of throwing strikes, trying to keep the pitch count as low as you can and go as deep as you can," said Hunter afterward. "It was pretty fun."
Hunter posted a 9-6 record with a 4.10 earned run average over 19 starts during an encouraging rookie season in 2009, but began this season on the disabled list with an oblique strain and was later sent to Triple-A Oklahoma, where he went 1-2 with a 4.05 ERA in six assignments.
The 23-year-old's other complete game came against the Mariners in Arlington last September, when he yielded just one earned run and six hits in a 7-2 Texas verdict. That victory was Hunter's lone one in four starts against Seattle last year, but did produce a 2.59 ERA over the course of those games.
Texas had lost two in a row, including the opener of this set, following Hunter's gem, but have outscored the Mariners by a 19-3 margin in taking the last two matchups. The Rangers had their bats working in last night's clash, with six players collecting two or more hits in a 12-2 rout of slumping Seattle.
Josh Hamilton went 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBI to lead the charge, while Vladimir Guerrero continued his torrid hitting by going 3-for-5 and knocking in a pair of runs. Michael Young also homered and finished with two RBI as part of a 2-for-4 night.
C.J. Wilson (5-3) did his part as well, with the Texas starter holding the Mariners to two runs and four hits over the first seven innings.
"Everything clicked tonight; offense, pitching and defense," Rangers outfielder David Murphy said after the game. "You wish you could have a night like that every night."
It was a forgettable night for the Mariners and starting pitcher Ian Snell (0-5), who was pounded for eight runs (seven earned) and eight hits before being removed after just 1 2/3 innings.
"They hit the ball hard. Things didn't go my way," Snell said. "I take this loss on myself."
The defeat was the fifth in five games for the last-place Mariners, who scored both of their runs on back-to-back doubles by Jose Lopez and Josh Wilson in the first inning.
With their bullpen taxed after Snell's short outing last night, Seattle will be counting on a long and sharp effort out of Ryan Rowland-Smith in this evening's finale. The native Australian pitched well in his last start, limiting the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to a run on four hits over five innings in a no-decision this past Saturday.
Rowland-Smith was making his first start since being shelled for seven runs and 10 hits in 2 2/3 innings against Oakland on May 17. The left-hander was sent to the bullpen following that poor showing, but was put back in the rotation when the Mariners were forced to place Doug Fister on the disabled list last week.
In nine overall starts this season, Rowland-Smith has gone 0-4 with a lackluster 6.95 ERA. His latest win in the majors came against the Rangers on October 3 of last season, when he tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball in a 2-1 decision at Safeco Field.
The 27-year-old has also faced Texas seven times previously in relief and has surrendered just four runs -- two earned -- over a combined 17 1/3 innings against the Rangers.
Texas enters tonight's tilt with a half-game edge on the Angels for first place in the West and has won seven of nine encounters between these teams so far this season. The Rangers are 12-5 over their last 17 bouts with the Mariners held in Arlington.