Very little has shut down Texas' prolific offense, but the Seattle Mariners' Kevin Millwood, of all people, is one of the pitchers to have given the team problems.
The AL West-leading Rangers look to carry some momentum from an amazing weekend into Monday night's series opener with the Mariners and Millwood, who shut down Texas for a second time last week.
The Rangers (30-18) lead the majors with 276 runs, 73 homers, a .289 average and an .824 OPS, and they flexed their muscles in sweeping a weekend series from Toronto, combining for 34 runs, 10 homers and 44 hits while producing a 1.091 OPS. Nelson Cruz finished the series with two homers, two doubles and 10 RBIs, Adrian Beltre drove in five runs and Ian Kinsler had three doubles, four RBIs and five runs.
"We have All-Stars,' Ron Washington said after Sunday's 12-6 win. "The guys who hit behind (Josh) Hamilton are guys who can drive in runs.'
Despite boasting one of baseball's most potent lineups, the Rangers totaled seven runs and 16 hits in dropping two of three last Monday-Wednesday in Seattle, and Millwood (3-4, 4.72 ERA) was one of the pitchers to silence their bats.
In the Mariners' 5-3 victory Wednesday, the 37-year-old gave up three hits - singles to Kinsler and Hamilton and a double to Beltre - and a walk over six shutout innings. This was the second time this season Texas struggled against Millwood, who held the Rangers to a run and four hits over six innings in a 4-3 comeback win April 11.
"He's not much to figure out - he's always been fastball, curve, slider and changeup. But he's a veteran who knows how to pitch and has been doing it for a long time," left fielder David Murphy told the Mariners' official website. "He's had our number and he's in our division, so we're going to face him a lot and we have to make an adjustment."
The Rangers aren't the only team having trouble against the 16-year veteran, who pitched for Texas from 2006-09.
Prior to shutting down the Rangers, Millwood threw a two-hitter in a 4-0 win over Colorado on May 18. He has gone 17 straight innings without allowing a run - which trails only an 18-inning scoreless streak from Aug. 23-Sept. 3, 1999, for the longest of his career - and has given up just one run in his last 25 innings.
"Confidence goes a long ways in this game and that's kind of what I'm working on right now,' Millwood said.
While the Rangers could have some problems scoring, runs could also be at a premium for Seattle (21-29), which has little offense to speak of and has historically had virtually no success against scheduled starter Matt Harrison (5-3, 4.72).
At Safeco Field on Tuesday, the left-hander allowed a run and eight hits while matching a season best with six strikeouts in seven-plus innings of a 3-1 win. The victory marked Harrison's sixth in as many starts against the Mariners dating to May 1, 2010, and he is 7-0 with a 1.95 ERA in eight starts against them since 2009.
None of this bodes well for a Seattle offense that ranks 10th in the AL in runs (185) and 13th in batting (.226). Since facing Texas last week, the Mariners combined for nine runs and 18 hits in being swept in a four-game series by the Los Angeles Angels.
"We've got to do more offensively,' manager Eric Wedge said. "It's hard to win up here if you have to be perfect out there on the mound.'
Ichiro Suzuki was 2 for 16 in the series, while leadoff hitter Dustin Ackley was 2 for 12. Ackley was hitless in four at_bats last week against Harrison, falling to 0 for 15 lifetime in their matchups.
The Associated Press News Service
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