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Hunter, Rangers Face Mariners Ace Hernandez

(Sports Network) - After struggling to put up runs in recent days, the Texas Rangers' offense was able to return to its potent form in Wednesday's matchup with the Seattle Mariners. The American League West leaders may not have such an easy time of it tonight, however, with Felix Hernandez set to pitch for the Mariners in the finale of this three-game set.

Texas is tied for third in the majors in runs scored this season, but managed to cross the plate just five times in a three-game sequence that preceded last night's contest. The Rangers broke out in a big way, racking up 15 hits and putting together a couple of big innings en route to an 11-6 victory over the last-place Mariners.

David Murphy belted a three-run homer in a fifth inning in which Texas scored five times to overcome an early 5-2 deficit, while Michael Young put the game away with a grand slam in the top of the seventh. Both were among six Ranger regulars to produce two hits as the playoff hopefuls ended a two-game losing streak.

Texas also received quality work out of the bullpen in avenging a 3-2 defeat to Seattle in Tuesday's series opener. Three Ranger relievers combined to hold the Mariners to two runs -- one earned -- over the final six innings, with Scott Feldman (6-9) claiming the win after taking over for ineffective starter C.J. Wilson to start the bottom of the fourth.

Seattle's Doug Fister (3-8) lost his seventh consecutive decision after being tagged for seven runs and eight hits in just 4 2/3 innings of work. Most of the damage came in the top of the fifth, when Texas put up a five-spot and claimed a 6-5 lead on Murphy's two-out homer.

"Fister started the game pretty efficient, commanded his pitches," said Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu. "It goes down to that at-bat with Murphy, two outs, the 1-2 pitch. He tried to go in on him and he left the ball up out over the plate."

Jose Lopez went 2-for-5 with two RBI in the loss, the eighth in nine games for Seattle, while Adam Moore had a two-run homer off Wilson in the third inning.

Texas' inconsistent offense would figure to have a tough time of it with Hernandez, the AL's Cy Young Award runner-up in 2009, on the hill tonight. However, the Rangers have hit the Seattle ace hard in each of his last two encounters with the club, and Hernandez is an unimpressive 8-11 with a 4.16 earned run average in 25 lifetime starts against Texas.

The All-Star right-hander was tagged for five runs and eight hits over just 4 1/3 innings in a May 1 loss to the Rangers at Safeco Field, and surrendered seven runs in six frames to come out on the wrong end of a 7-1 verdict in Arlington back on June 8.

Hernandez also enters tonight's test having lost two straight starts and his last three decisions, although he certainly hasn't pitched badly over that time period. In his most recent mound trip, the 24-year-old lasted seven innings and held Minnesota to three runs in a 4-0 loss last Saturday in Minneapolis.

Tommy Hunter gets the call for Texas tonight and seeks to bounce back from an awful outing against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Friday. The right- hander was battered for eight runs and eight hits -- two of which were homers -- in a three-inning stint that constituted his worst performance of the season.

Hunter had ripped off eight straight winning decisions prior to Friday's fiasco, establishing a Rangers record for most consecutive victories to begin a season, and has posted a respectable 3.31 ERA in 11 starts since joining the Texas rotation in early June. One of those wins came against the Mariners on June 10, with the University of Alabama product allowing three runs (two earned) and five hits over six innings.

The 24-year-old has faced Seattle five times overall and owns a 2-2 record and a 2.67 ERA against the Mariners. Hunter is 0-1 in two career starts at Safeco Field, but has given up only two runs over 10 1/3 innings pitched at the venue.

Texas has won nine of the 12 meetings with Seattle this season and swept a three-game series at Safeco Field from April 30-May 2.

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