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TEX@SEA: Darvish strikes out eight over six innings

The Rangers and Mariners face off for the second consecutive weekend, this time at the Ballpark in Arlington, and Texas' Yu Darvish faces Seattle's Joe Saunders on Friday.

The clubs split a four-game set last weekend in Seattle, where Rangers manager Ron Washington came away impressed with Seattle's offseason upgrades.

"They've got some experience in their lineup now," Washington said. "They've always played tight ballgames, which means they always pitch and they always play defense. So they are improved. The only thing I see is a lack of speed, but they certainly have guys in that lineup that can hurt you."

The Mariners have certainly proven they can hurt Darvish in the past. The right-hander dropped his last start to Seattle on April 12, giving up three runs in six innings, and is 2-3 with a 6.21 ERA in five career starts against Seattle.

After flirting with perfection in his season debut, Darvish hasn't been as crisp in his past two outings. His fastball command has been lacking, forcing him to rely on his breaking ball.

The Rangers used Monday's off-day to their advantage by pushing back Darvish, who had a productive bullpen session Tuesday at Wrigley Field.

"We found a mechanical glitch and we tuned it up," pitching coach Mike Maddux said.

Saunders, who will make consecutive starts against the Rangers, hopes he might have finally figured out Texas -- and Rangers Ballpark.

Saunders is 3-7 with a 5.79 ERA in 12 starts against the Rangers, but held them to one unearned run in seven innings in an April 13 no-decision.

It was his second strong outing against Texas, dating back to last season when he beat the Rangers in the American League Wild Card game as an Oriole. It was his first win at Rangers Ballpark, where he is winless with a 9.38 ERA in six regular-season starts.

"Everybody's going to have their rough games there. It's a tough place to pitch," Saunders said. "I happened to be unfortunate to never pull out a 'W,' and the bad ones were bad. I think I threw my first complete game there and lost, 3-2. I lost 1-0 there once. That's kind of unheard of there. It was one of those quirky things where people were trying to hype something up that wasn't really necessary.

"There was a lot of motivation for myself, and it's always nice as a player to prove people wrong. That's what drives you and that's what you feed off of."

Mariners: No breaks
• Friday is the fifth of 16 consecutive games for the Mariners, who open the season with 30 games in 31 days.

• First baseman Justin Smoak has appeared in all 17 games this season (16 starts). He's also riding a five-game hitting streak.

• Seattle hasn't won consecutive games since opening 2-0.

Rangers: Offensive funk
• The Rangers have scored four or fewer runs in seven straight games, their longest such stretch since 10 games last July. Texas is hitting .209 during that stretch.

• This weekend at Rangers Ballpark fans may donate essential items for the victims of the explosion and fires that took place in West, Texas. Items will be collected outside the park gates two hours before game time until 30 minutes after first pitch. Cash donations also will be accepted and directed to the relief effort.

• Opposing hitters have two hits in 29 at-bats (.051 average) against Darvish in counts with two strikes, including 28 punchouts.

Worth noting
• Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, who has a seven-game hitting streak, is 5-for-13 against Darvish. That .385 average is the third highest against Darvish among players with at least 10 plate appearances against him. Seager also is the only player with at least three doubles against him.

• Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler is a .370 career hitter (10-for-27) with four home runs against Saunders.

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