Mariners-Rangers Preview

Ian Desmond certainly wasn't a high-profile free agent signing, nor was he giving the Texas Rangers much production during the season's first month.

Now the shortstop-turned-outfielder is playing a key role in the club's rise to the top of the AL West as one of MLB's best hitters over the past month.

Desmond will try to keep swinging the bat well Sunday when the Rangers look to extend their division lead by sweeping the visiting Seattle Mariners.

After spending his first seven seasons with Washington, Desmond went unsigned until late February when Texas took a chance on a one-year deal.

Desmond, who moved to the outfield out of necessity, wasn't contributing much with a .194 average through his first 19 games. However, something clicked in early May when the 2012 All-Star began to heat up.

His .386 average is one of the highest in the majors since May 6. He had three more hits in Saturday's 10-4 victory in Arlington, leaving him 7 for 10 in the first two games of the series.

“I'm just trying to do my job and produce runs,” Desmond told the league's official website of his hot streak.

The Rangers (33-22) have averaged 7.1 runs and batted .313 with 15 homers in their last nine games. They've also won 11 of 14 to move two games ahead of Seattle (31-24).

Texas could have a tougher time as it tries to sweep the Mariners at home for the first time since 2013. Hisashi Iwakuma will try to help Seattle avoid its seventh loss in 10 games and win his career-high fourth consecutive start.

Iwakuma (4-4, 4.41 ERA) hasn't been dominant with a 4.50 ERA in his last three outings, but he's been backed by 33 runs of support. He'll try to lift a rotation that has a 9.33 ERA while the club has lost six of its past nine games.

“We'll get it turned around,” manager Scott Servais said. “It's just a frustrating stretch right now.''

Iwakuma had been 6-0 with a 2.87 ERA in his previous eight meetings with the Rangers before allowing three runs over six innings in a 7-3 home loss April 11. Five days earlier, he gave up two over five innings in a 10-2 road win.

Elvis Andrus is 3 for 5 off the right-hander this season, but Desmond has gone 0 for 8 lifetime. Rougned Odor is 6 for 15 with a home run in the matchup, while Adrian Beltre is batting .310 with three homers in 42 career at-bats.

Andrus, who had a three-run homer and a double Saturday, is 9 for 21 over a five-game hitting streak. He's 10 for 20 in his last five versus Seattle.

Derek Holland (4-4, 4.78) hopes to benefit from another surge after posting a 2.41 ERA in his last three starts. He earned his first win since April 30 on Monday when he allowed one run over six innings in a 9-2 victory at Cleveland.

The left-hander is 10-4 with a 3.38 ERA in 18 starts against the Mariners. He limited them to four hits over 6 2/3 innings in an 8-0 road victory April 12.

Norichika Aoki is 5 for 10 in the matchup, Adam Lind has gone 6 for 15 with a home run and Robinson Cano is batting .375 with two homers in 40 at-bats.