The offenses of the Rangers and Mariners appear to be trending in opposite directions, with Texas' lineup breaking out in a series-opening victory while Seattle's continued to scuffle.
Both will turn to rookie hurlers -- facing each other for the second time this season -- as this three-game set continues Saturday night in Arlington.The Rangers (10-6) led the majors with 808 runs last year but were expected to see their offense take a hit after losing key players in the offseason. However, most likely didn't expect them to dip as drastically as the 3.7 runs per game they've averaged heading into Friday's contest.But Texas busted out for a 7-0 victory, matching a season high for runs, and its six runs in the fifth were twice as many as the team had scored in a single inning this year.Three batters broke out of ugly individual slumps. David Murphy had been 4 for his last 31, A.J. Pierzynski was 4 for 25 and Craig Gentry halted a 2-for-16 skid."We know what we're capable of as an offense. You can't do that every night," said Ian Kinsler, who leads Texas with five home runs and 11 RBIs. "I think we all want to get it going earlier."Meanwhile, the Mariners (7-11) remain mired in inconsistency and haven't strung together two victories since starting 2-0. A big problem has been the lack of run production, with Seattle averaging 2.1 runs over its last nine games while going 3-6.The Mariners have struck out 44 times in their last three, including 10 times against Texas' Yu Darvish on Friday. The others were against Detroit's Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, meaning they've faced three of baseball's top strikeout artists in order. But manager Eric Wedge wasn't necessarily buying that excuse."We have faced good pitchers. But we're a lot better than that," Wedge said. "The one thing is hitting with two strikes. We gotta do a better job. There's certain things we need to do prior to that to create damage. We're capable and we should do a better job."Looking to follow Darvish's masterful outing -- it was the first time Seattle has been shut out -- will be right-hander Nick Tepesch, who is 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA through the first two starts of his career. The loss came in a 4-3 defeat at Seattle last Sunday as he surrendered four runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings."The bottom line is he kept us in the game and gave us a chance," manager Ron Washington told the team's official website. "We just didn't get the hit that would have made a difference."Seattle starter Brandon Maurer picked up his first career victory in that game, holding the Rangers to three runs on five hits over six innings.Maurer, who is 1-2 with a 9.95 ERA after he was shelled in his first two starts, said he believes the experience against the same club should help Saturday."I'll just go out there and do the same thing," the 22-year-old told the Mariners' official website. "I don't have to tweak anything. Just go out there and make pitches."Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez was held out of the starting lineup for the second straight game and for the fifth time in seven days Friday as he continues to deal with groin tightness. Wedge said the team would continue to monitor his status.