The Texas Rangers were in a position to finally pick up a game in the standings on the hard-charging Oakland Athletics on Thursday night when the near-unthinkable happened. Closer Joe Nathan allowed two homers to blow his first save in five months in a 5-4 loss to Cleveland. Despite owning the best record in the American League, the Rangers’ lead atop the West remains at three games over Oakland as they get set to host the Seattle Mariners in a three-game series Friday night.
The series opener features a rare matchup of Japanese rookie right-handers, when Texas’ Yu Darvish opposes Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma. They went against each other six times in Japan and were teammates on the Japanese team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton, who sat out Thursday’s game after receiving an injection in his sore knee, is expected back in the lineup. He leads the majors in homers (41) and RBIs (121).
Mariners Rangers Betting
When: 8:05 PM ET, Friday, September 14, 2012
Where: Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Arlington, Texas
TV: 8:05 p.m. ET, SportsTime Ohio, Fox Sports Southwest
PITCHING MATCHUP: Mariners RH Hisashi Iwakuma (6-4, 3.39 ERA) vs. Rangers RH Yu Darvish (14-9, 4.14)
Iwakuma had his shortest outing since moving into the starting rotation against Oakland on Sept. 8, lasting only 3 2/3 innings and giving up five runs – four earned – and six hits. Iwakuma had gone 4-0 and allowed only six runs in his previous five starts. He made his lone start against the Rangers on July 15, permitting four runs on seven hits in five innings.
Darvish has rebounded from a brief midseason swoon by turning in five straight solid outings. He is 3-1 in that span, having allowed three runs or fewer in each. Darvish was outstanding in his last start at Tampa Bay but did not factor in the decision after limiting the Rays to two runs on two hits in eight innings. He has struggled mightly against Seattle, logging a 1-2 mark and bloated 9.00 ERA in three starts.
1. Darvish needs four strikeouts to become the 16th rookie since 1900 to fan 200 batters.
2. Mariners 3B Kyle Seager has hit in four straight and was 7-for-13 in the series vs. the Blue Jays.
3. Nathan’s blown save was his first since April 11, snapping a franchise-record 31 in a row.