W2W4: Rangers-Mariners


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers get another chance to do damage against the American League West over the next six days.

The Rangers, who welcome Seattle to town Friday and then Houston on Monday, are 37-14 against division opponents. That's the best intradivision record in the major leagues.

It's helped the Rangers rally to take a 1 1/2 game lead on Oakland in the AL West with 41 games left in the regular season.

Here's what to watch for against the Mariners this weekend:

Final trip: Seattle makes it final visit to Arlington. The Mariners won two out of three games from the Rangers the last time they were here in early July. Texas swept Seattle in their other series at Rangers Ballpark in April. The Rangers are 8-5 against the Mariners this season, matching their record against Oakland. Texas is 31-14 against Seattle since 2009. The Rangers have won the season series five years in a row, and can win it again by taking two out of three games this weekend.

Pitching duels: Look for low-scoring games this weekend between the Rangers and Mariners. Seattle will throw its best two starters, All-Stars Hisashi Iwakuma (10-6, 2.96) and Felix Hernandez (12-5, 2.28) on Friday and Saturday. Young right-hander Erasmo Ramirez (4-0, 7.06) will start for the Mariners on Sunday. The Rangers counter with left-handers Derek Holland (9-6, 3.07) and Martin Perez (5-3, 3.44) and right-hander Yu Darvish (12-5, 3.14) in that order. The Mariners are 27-23 in the combined starts of Iwakuma and King Felix this season.

Age is just a number: Mariners outfielder Raul Ibanez, 41, is the first player since Barry Bonds in 2007 to hit 25 or more home runs in a season age 40 or older, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Ibanez homered off Tampa Bay's Alex Cobb in the Mariners' 7-1 loss to the Rays on Thursday. Bonds did it twice in 2006 and '07. Darrell Evans hit 34 home runs in 1987 at the age of 40.

Smoakin' hot: There's another former Rangers first baseman that is on a tear. Former first-round draft pick Justin Smoak, traded to Seattle in 2010 for Cliff Lee, has hit safely in 12 of his last 14 games. Smoak is batting .327 with three doubles, four home runs and 10 RBIS during that span. He has a slash of .376/.533/.910 since coming off the disabled list June 18. He has hit 10 of his 13 home runs.

Reliant on power: Seattle relies heavily on the home run ball, so it will be up to the Rangers to keep the Mariners in the ballpark after giving up five to Milwaukee in two games. Seattle is third in the major leagues with 144 home runs, trailing Baltimore (161), Toronto (146) and tied with Atlanta. The Mariners are the only team with eight players with at least 10 home runs. The Mariners have scored around 47 percent of their runs on the long ball, the highest percentage in the big leagues.