Mariners-Rangers Preview

In a year they appeared set to contend for a division title, the

Seattle Mariners haven’t gotten off to a strong start, but it’s not

for lack of effort from Franklin Gutierrez.

After helping his team snap a four-game slide, Gutierrez will

try to lead the Mariners to their third straight series victory

over the Texas Rangers on Sunday.

The Mariners (2-4) batted .199 through their first five games

and received word before this weekend that top starter Cliff Lee is

expected to miss the rest of this month because of a strained

abdominal muscle.

While it was an inauspicious start to the season, Seattle broke

out with a season-high 12 hits Saturday, including three key

singles in the ninth inning, in a 4-3 comeback victory. Trailing by

two heading into the final frame, Seattle got RBI hits from Ichiro

Suzuki, Ken Griffey Jr. and Gutierrez.

Gutierrez drove in the go-ahead run then made a leaping catch

against the wall in right-center field in the bottom of the inning

to deny Elvis Andrus a potential extra-base hit with one out.

“It was very important, this victory,” Gutierrez said. “We’ve

been having a tough time scoring runs. So it was very special that

we won. We’ve got to keep doing it and do it better.”

Gutierrez’s three-hit performance Saturday gave him a team-best

.435 average (10 for 23) and extended his hitting streak to 11

games dating to Sept. 30.

He’ll try to add to that streak and help Ian Snell (0-0, 1.50

ERA) to his first win of the season.

The right-hander allowed one run and four hits over six innings

Tuesday in Oakland but did not receive a decision in the Mariners’

2-1, 10-inning defeat.

Snell got his only career win over the Rangers in Arlington on

June 13, 2007. In an 8-1 victory for Pittsburgh, he scattered seven

hits while recording one of his two career complete games.

Snell did not get a decision in two starts in 2009 against Texas

but will face a team that’s also struggling at the plate to open

this season.

The Rangers (2-3) are batting .216, and only Vladimir Guerrero

(.474), Joaquin Arias (.455) and Nelson Cruz (.444) are hitting

better than .250.

Cruz hit his fourth homer Saturday to give his team a two-run

lead in the sixth inning, but Frank Francisco blew his second

consecutive save opportunity.

“It’s a tough thing; it should have been a win today,” Cruz

said. “It’s really disappointing, but that’s baseball. Anything can

happen.”

Francisco, who retired one batter Saturday, also allowed three

runs in the ninth inning of a 3-1 loss to Toronto on Thursday.

Texas manager Ron Washington wouldn’t say if the Dominican

right-hander would remain the team’s closer.

“Stay tuned,” he said.

Whoever relieves Scott Feldman (0-0, 3.86) could have the

opportunity to help the right-hander to his second win in seven

starts dating to the end of last season.

Feldman suffered three straight defeats to finish 17-8 in 2009

and did not get a decision in Monday’s season opener, a 5-4 home

win over Toronto. He allowed three runs and five hits over seven

innings, but the Blue Jays’ Shaun Marcum also carried a no-hit bid

into the seventh.

Feldman was 2-1 with a 3.12 ERA in four starts last season

against the Mariners.