Rangers-Mariners Preview

The Texas Rangers’ starting rotation is getting a boost with the return of Matt Harrison, and it’s coming against an AL West foe he’s had his way with.

Harrison, the club’s 2013 opening-day starter, will try to celebrate his season debut Sunday against the Seattle Mariners with a series win at Safeco Field.

Harrison last pitched in the majors on April 6 last year and missed the rest of the season with a herniated disc in his lower back after winning 18 games in 2012. The left-hander went 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in three starts for Double-A Frisco and joins a starting staff that has posted a 2.66 ERA in the last eight games.

"I feel 100 percent," Harrison told the team’s official website. "I feel like I did before the injury. The big thing is I just can’t go out there, take a deep breath, relax and say, ‘I’m back.’ That’s not going to help anybody. I need to focus on what I needed to do. Be aggressive and attack. I think my mind frame is in the right place."

He should be content with facing the Mariners (9-14) after going 8-1 with a 1.46 ERA in his last nine starts against them. He’s been even better at Safeco Field, where he’s 5-1 in his career with a 0.99 ERA while throwing complete games on his last two visits.

"I’m just glad to get back," Harrison said. "The way I felt last year, I didn’t know if I would ever pitch again."

This year’s version of the Mariners might not be any more difficult to handle. They’re batting .224, which ranks 14th in the American League, and those struggles led to some lineup changes prior to Saturday’s 6-3 series-tying loss.

The Mariners moved right fielder Michael Saunders to the leadoff spot and bumped center fielder Abraham Almonte to second in the order. Despite Saunders’ leadoff homer, manager Lloyd McClendon’s club was held to six hits in its ninth loss in 11 games.

"Look, I don’t have any magic answers," McClendon told the team’s official website. "I’m just searching. I’m just trying to spark the offense."

Almonte went 0 for 5 and is 3 for 29 in his last seven games, while third baseman Kyle Seager went 2 for 4 with a home run to improve to 6 for 11 with three homers and seven RBIs in three games.

Harrison will oppose Brandon Maurer, who is making his second start while filling in for the banged-up Mariners.

The right-hander went 4 1-3 innings in Sunday’s 3-2 loss at Miami, yielding a run on two hits while walking two and striking out four. Maurer (0-0, 2.08 ERA) had a no-hitter going through four but tired as he continues to regain his form following a back injury.

"Fatigue hit at that point. Mechanics lost a little there," Maurer said. "Felt good through the first four. … I wish I would’ve gone a little longer, but I did what I could get done."

In two 2013 starts against Texas, Maurer went 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA while holding the Rangers to a .156 average.

The Rangers (15-9) got at least one hit from everyone in the lineup Saturday and one RBI from six different players to win for the ninth time in 11 games. Four of those victories have come against Seattle.

Texas is hitting .300 during the run of success with right fielder Alex Rios batting .395 in his last nine games. He’s had at least a hit in all six games against the Mariners this season.