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Fri, Sep 14, 2012 - 8:05 PM ET
 

Mariners-Rangers Preview

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Josh Hamilton will be back, and the Texas Rangers could surely use him.

The Rangers are looking for some breathing room atop the AL West on Friday night in Arlington as they open this three-game series with the last-place Seattle Mariners.

Texas (85-58) leads the division by three games over second-place Oakland, and Hamilton will get a chance to help the Rangers pad that lead.

Baseball's leader with 41 homers and 121 RBIs, Hamilton received an injection in his sore left knee after leaving Wednesday's 5-2 win over Cleveland. He sat out Thursday's 5-4 loss, as the Rangers blew a two-run lead in the ninth, but is good to go for Friday.

Hamilton is hitting .329 with six homers and 21 RBIs in his last 19 home games.

Like Hamilton, Adrian Beltre is dealing with a nagging injury, but his strained left shoulder didn't seem to bother him as he had two hits and scored twice Thursday.

Beltre has been a force at the plate in his last 22 games, batting .419 with 13 homers and 24 RBIs. He has a .320 average in 13 season meetings against Seattle.

Yu Darvish (14-9, 4.14 ERA) will start for Texas looking to improve to 10-2 at home. He's won his last two there, yielding three runs and 12 hits in 13 2-3 innings, but hasn't pitched in Arlington since a 10-strikeout effort in a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay on Aug. 28.

That performance is part of Darvish's three-game overall stretch that has seen him go 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA.

The right-hander turned in another strong effort Saturday, yielding two runs - one earned - and two hits while fanning eight in eight innings of a 4-2 win in 10 over the Rays.

He hasn't had much luck when facing the AL's lowest-scoring team, however. Darvish is 1-2 with a 9.00 ERA in three starts against Seattle, yielding at least five runs in each and walking 14 in 16 innings.

The Mariners (69-75), losers of four of six after Thursday's 8-3 defeat at Toronto, will counter with Hisashi Iwakuma (6-4, 3.39), a name with which Darvish is quite familiar. The two helped Japan win the 2009 World Baseball Classic, and will start opposite each other for the first time in the majors.

"We are friends, and sometimes we get dinner together and sometimes we talk on the phone," Iwakuma said through an interpreter on the Mariners' official website. "I'm looking forward to pitching against him.

"Of course, it's fun waiting to face each other at the major league level. In Japan, we played against each other a couple games. So we expect that, it's just now we're here."

Iwakuma has been a pleasant surprise since moving to the rotation in early July, going 5-3 with a 2.80 ERA in 12 starts. However, he's trying to rebound from his worst performance of that stretch.

The right-hander was tagged for five runs and six hits in 3 2-3 innings of Saturday's 6-1 home loss to Oakland. He had been 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA over his five previous starts.

Iwakuma is 0-1 with a 7.88 ERA and a save in two games against the Rangers. His only start resulted in a 4-0 loss on July 15 at Safeco Field, when he allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings.

Tagged: Mariners, Rangers, Josh Hamilton

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