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Rangers Open Four Game Set Against Mariners

(Sports Network) - The Texas Rangers will attempt to continue their season- long success at home when the current American League West leaders welcome one of the worst road teams in the majors, the Seattle Mariners, to Rangers Ballpark at Arlington tonight for the opener of a four-game divisional series.

A 20-10 record at home has helped the Rangers seize the top spot in the AL West, where the club presently owns a half-game edge on the hard-charging Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Texas is coming off a pair of victories in its three-game series with AL East-leading Tampa Bay at Rangers Ballpark over the weekend, although the Rays were able to claim the finale with a 9-5 decision yesterday afternoon.

The Rangers received shaky pitching on Sunday, with starter Rich Harden (3-2) serving up a pair of homers and allowing four runs (three earned) in a five- inning stint in which he labored through 111 pitches. Relievers Frank Francisco and Darren O'Day combined to give up three runs in the eighth, enabling the Rays to pull away in what had been a close contest.

"[Harden] still has to figure out a way to get us deeper into ball games," said Rangers manager Ron Washington afterward. "He left the game, we were still in the game, but he still has to get us deeper into the game and he's gotta keep working at it."

Matt Treanor belted a pair of solo home runs for Texas, with Justin Smoak and Josh Hamilton each delivering RBI singles in a losing cause.

The Angels closed the gap on the Rangers in the standings with Sunday's 9-4 victory at Seattle, which completed a sweep of the three-game series. Mike Napoli's two-run homer in the top of the seventh inning snapped a 4-4 tie, and Anaheim later tacked on three more runs against the Mariners bullpen to put the game out of reach.

Hideki Matsui reached base with a one-out single off Seattle reliever Shawn Kelley (3-1) and Napoli followed with an opposite-field blast over the wall in right to give Anaheim a 6-4 advantage.

Ichiro Suzuki, Jose Lopez and Josh Wilson each had two hits and an RBI for the Mariners, who entered the series off three consecutive home wins over AL Central leader Minnesota. Seattle starter Jason Vargas worked the first six innings and was reached for four runs (three earned) on 10 hits.

"I think it's always disappointing when you get swept," Vargas said following the loss. "I thought we had some good momentum going in and let some games slip away at the end."

Seattle now heads to the road, where the team has gone a woeful 7-17 thus far in 2010, for a 10-game trip against three teams (Texas, San Diego, St. Louis) currently leading their respective divisions.

The Mariners also haven't fared well in Arlington in the recent past, with the Rangers having won 11 of the last 15 matchups between the AL West foes as the host. In addition, Texas has taken five of its previous six overall encounters with Seattle this season.

Seattle hopes to reverse its fortunes behind Cliff Lee, but the former AL Cy Young Award winner has had a rough go of it at Rangers Ballpark as well over his career. The accomplished left-hander does own a 3-3 record in six lifetime starts in Arlington, but has surrendered 35 runs (33 earned) in 32 1/3 innings over those games, as well as a .338 batting average against.

Lee does enter tonight's assignment on an excellent roll, though. He held the red-hot Angels to three runs -- two earned -- on just four hits and struck out 10 over eight innings in a May 28 victory, then followed up by yielding just one run on five hits and fanning eight through eight frames this past Wednesday against Minnesota. Lee did not receive a decision that night, but the Mariners were able to come away with a 2-1 triumph.

The 31-year-old was also outstanding in his season debut, which took place against the Rangers at Safeco Field. Lee permitted just three hits and struck out eight without a walk in seven scoreless innings in that April 30 clash, although he did not get a decision after exiting a scoreless tie.

In nine overall starts versus Texas, Lee is 5-3 with a 6.15 earned run average.

Scott Feldman gets the call for the Rangers this evening and looks to maintain his career mastery of the Mariners. The right-hander owns a 3-1 record with a 2.67 ERA in 16 games (seven starts) against Seattle and dealt the M's a defeat in Arlington by permitting two runs -- one earned -- over seven sharp innings back on April 11.

Feldman also enters tonight's tilt having won two of his last three starts and pitched a season-high eight innings in Wednesday's victory at Chicago. He was touched for five runs that night, but received plenty of offensive support in a 9-5 verdict.

A surprise 17-game winner for the Rangers last year, Feldman is just 3-5 with a 5.82 ERA through his first 11 starts of this season, but has gone 2-1 in six home starts so far in 2010.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.