Rangers taking race one series at a time

Rangers taking race one series at a time

SEATTLE -- Texas manager Ron Washington is trying not to put any added emphasis on his team's four-game series against fellow American League West contender Seattle this weekend.

He doesn't really need to. His Rangers were in first place heading into Thursday's series-opener, 4 1/2 games ahead of the Mariners and one game up on the second-place Angels.

These final games before the All Star break could go a long way toward changing the landscape of the division race. Even if Washington, for his team's sake, would rather not look at it that way.

"It is what it is," Washington said with a smile. "If this is September, it might mean something. But all I want us to do right now, and all it means, is we want to try to win another series."

That's something the Rangers have had no problem doing against the Mariners this season. They took the first five meetings of the year, a couple of them coming in dramatic, late-inning fashion. Two came in extra innings, and three were one-run games. The difference in the clubs' season series has made the difference so far in the AL West standings.

And the Rangers are getting healthy just at the right time. They regained All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton from the disabled list on Monday, and more success against the Mariners in this series could help turn the AL West back into a two-team race.

But Washington thinks highly of the Mariners, and doesn't see them fading any time soon.

"Seattle isn't going anywhere," Washington said. "Not with the pitching they have. They've got some power over there. They've got some speed over there."

That might be a good thing, Washington said, for the reputation of the division.

"I believe we're not going anywhere, either," Washington said. "I think it'll be a nice year for the West to finally bunch together instead of having one team run away."

Pitching matchup
TEX: RHP Scott Feldman (7-2, 3.91 ERA)
Feldman gave up two runs (one earned) over six innings on Sunday against the Rays, allowing four walks but just three hits. As a starter this season, Feldman has held opponents to a .217 average (65-for-299). Feldman has posted nine quality starts this season and has logged at least five innings in all 14 of his starts this season, posting six or more innings 11 times. The right-hander is 7-2 with a 3.25 ERA as a starter this season, and he has a 2.30 ERA in 12 games (three starts) spanning 27 1/3 innings against the Mariners in his career. In four games at Safeco Field, Feldman hasn't allowed an earned run in 3 1/3 innings.

SEA: RHP Brandon Morrow (0-3, 5.05 ERA)
Signs of progress were seen in the converted reliever's most recent start as he held the Red Sox to three runs over six innings at Fenway Park, striking out a season-high seven batters. All three runs came via solo home runs, but he walked just two and departed with a one-run lead. He has surrendered just four earned runs in his last two starts, covering 10 2/3 innings. He has improved in each outing on changing speeds and using his slider and changeup more often.

Washington said he hasn't decided who will start the series finale on Sunday. ... Right-hander Vicente Padilla's throwing hand is feeling fine after he had to leave Wednesday's game because he tried to barehand a one-hopper. ... Nelson Cruz was out of the Texas lineup for the third consecutive game on Thursday. Cruz is tied for the team lead with 20 home runs, but Washington said his lineup played so well in Wednesday's game that he didn't want to change anything. ... Heading into Thursday, the Rangers had won 17 of the last 20 games Hamilton had started.

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On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
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Up next
• Saturday: Rangers (Kevin Millwood, 8-6, 3.34) at Mariners (Jarrod Washburn, 5-6, 3.08), 9:10 p.m. CT
• Sunday: Rangers (Dustin Nippert, 0-0, 7.36) at Mariners (Erik Bedard, 5-2, 2.58), 3:10 p.m. CT
• Monday: All-Star break

Christian Caple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.