Teams never want to take a losing streak to the fifth man in their starting rotation, but that's the situaion Seattle finds itself in tonight.
Jason Vargas vs. Colby Lewis, with a three-game Mariners losing streak in progress. This will be his third start against the Rangers, and both previous efforts lasted five innings. In one, he allowed only a run. In the other, five.
Figure Vargas for five innings tonight - six top - with a rested bullpen behind him. What happens after he departs, of course, depends on the score.
If the Mariners lead, they're in good shape. Closer David Aardsmas hasn't pitched since Monday, both Mark Lowe and Brandon League are coming off a day of rest.
The offense? The Mariners figure they need 17-20 quality at-bats to win any given game. A quality at-bat can be running up a pitch count, moving a runner over, getting a runner in.
In the four-game series in Oakland, the Mariners had 24 quality ABs in their victory, then nine, 19 and 13 in the three games that followed. Those 19 quality ABs in game three got them close, but not close enough.
For fun, keep track tonight. A quality at-bat can be - according to hitting coach Alan Cockrell - any AB in which you see eight pitches or more; any AB in which you fall behind, 0-2 or 1-2, and extend the pitcher; any ball you 'barrel up'; any time you mov a runner up with an out - or score one.
If they don't total 17 or more, it better be a pitchers duel.
- Ichiro doubled and scored on a Casey Kotchman ground ball, but Milton Bradley and Ken Griffey Jr. went down with Chone Figgins sitting on third base. Seattle 1, Texas 0.
- Vargas at his best: With two on and no one out, he retired three consecutive Rangers without allowing a runner to move up a base.
- Seattle has a lead but has left one runner at third base (first inning) and another at second (third inning) after Jack Wilson led off with a double. If this remains a pitching duel, those missed opportunities could loom large as the night wears on.
- Nelson Cruz hit his third home run, and it didn't take long for the Mariners to realize one run isn't enough here. Through four innings, Seattle 1, Texas 1.
- Don Wakamatsu trying to make things happen. After Ichiro singled to lead off the sixth, Wak called hit-and-run, but Figgins popped out. Running on his own with Kotchman up, Ichiro was caught stealing. Kotchman walked. Bradley popped out.
- Vargas into the sixth, gets one out, walks Josh Hamilton and gives up an RBI double to Vladimir Guererro. Vladdy now has four multi-hit games to open his Texas career. Cruz singled Guerrero home. Chris Davis dives safely into first base with an infield single. That's it for Vargas. Shawn Kelley in. Texas 3, Seattle 1.
- Kelley gets an out, but gives up back-to-back RBI singles. Using their capacity to hit with runners in scoring position - something the Mariners haven't done well this week - the Rangers may have blown this one wide open. After six: Texas 5, Seattle 1.
- Sean White in two outs into the seventh. This one is gone, sports fans. Failing to score when it would have mattered, the Mariners have now assured themselves it almost certainly won't. Texas 6, Seattle 1.
- This is it, top of the ninth, down by four runs. Right-hander Doug Mathis in to finish it, got Lopez on a ground ball, Gutierrez on strikes. Pinch-hitter Matt Tuiasosopo struck out. It's a final: Texas 6, Seattle 2.