Mariners-Rangers Preview

With the luxury of preparing for the playoffs, the Texas Rangers

rested four healthy regulars in their last game.

To help set up their postseason rotation, they’ll have Rich

Harden fill in and make his first start in a month.

Harden will try Wednesday afternoon to help the Rangers avoid

getting swept at home by the Seattle Mariners for the first time

since 2002.

With its first playoff appearance and AL West title since 1999

already assured, Texas (87-70) is making sure it will have a

healthy team. Key offensive cogs Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Michael

Young and Vladimir Guerrero all sat out Tuesday’s 3-1 loss.

The Rangers are also making some adjustments to their rotation,

which is expected to feature left-handers Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson

and right-hander Colby Lewis for the division series. While those

front-line starters rested Tuesday, Scott Feldman made his second

start since July 24. He couldn’t match Seattle ace Felix Hernandez,

who dominated the light-hitting Texas lineup.

Harden (5-5, 5.42 ERA), whose last start was exactly a month

ago, hopes to get better run support in the series finale. He’ll

have what figures to be a more favorable matchup than Feldman did,

as Seattle (61-96) will hand the ball to Jason Vargas (9-12, 3.91),

who has lost his last seven starts – one shy of a franchise record

shared by Randy Johnson (1992) and Rick Honeycutt (1980).

Harden has made only two relief appearances since he came off

the disabled list last month. He will try to keep Seattle from

completing its first sweep of three or more games in Arlington

since a four-game set in 2002.

The Mariners haven’t swept any road series since taking three

games at Oakland from April 10-12, 2009.

Harden, who has given up four runs in 2 2-3 innings of relief

this month, has a 5.17 ERA in 17 starts. The right-hander is 5-2

with a 1.88 ERA in eight starts against the Mariners, but has not

faced them since 2007.

While the Rangers will have a former member of the rotation take

the mound Wednesday, they added starter Tommy Hunter to the bullpen

Tuesday in preparation for his postseason role. He retired both

batters he faced in the fifth inning.

“It was different, I will tell you that,” said Hunter, whose

previous 43 major league appearances had all come as a starter. “I

had some adrenaline going.”

Vargas (9-12, 3.91) has a 6.59 ERA during his seven-start losing

streak. He gave up five runs and walked four in 4 1-3 innings of a

5-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Friday.

The left-hander is 1-2 with a 6.23 ERA in three starts against

Texas this season.