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Mariners, Rangers Face Off In Sunday Afternoon Rubber Match At Safeco

(Sports Network) - The Texas Rangers try to take another step towards their first American League West title in 11 years this afternoon when they wrap up a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.

The Rangers got a lift from Cliff Lee on Saturday, as he pitched eight dominant innings in his return to Seattle, leading Texas to a 6-1 win.

Lee (12-8) limited Seattle to one run on six hits and a walk, and struck out eight to win his second straight start. It was his first outing against the Mariners, who acquired him in the offseason, since they traded him to the Rangers shortly before the All-Star break.

Bengie Molina went 3-for-4 with a two-run single for Texas, which rebounded from Friday's loss to win for the eighth time in nine games. Coupled with Oakland's loss to Minnesota earlier Saturday, the Rangers reduced their magic number for clinching their first AL West title since 1999 to six.

"Cliff did what he does," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "He kept us in the ballgame, pounded the strike zone, and it was nice to bounce back from yesterday."

Jason Vargas (9-11) allowed five runs in six innings and took the loss for Seattle, which has dropped eight of nine.

"They swing the bat real well and they don't let you make mistakes very often," said Vargas. "I thought I threw the ball better than the scoreboard showed."

Today, Texas will turn to righty Tommy Hunter, who is 12-3 with a 3.97 earned run average. Hunter pitched well last Saturday against the Yankees, but did not get a decision despite allowing two runs and six hits in five innings of his team's 7-6 win.

Hunter tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings to beat the Mariners the last time he faced them and is 3-2 in six starts against them with a 2.21 ERA.

Seattle will hand the ball to righty Doug Fister, who has lost four of his last five starts. Fister's latest setback came on Monday against Boston, which reached him for five runs and six hits in 7 1/3 innings. He is 5-12 on the year with a 3.95 ERA.

Fister allowed seven runs and could not get out of the fifth inning the last time he faced the Rangers and is 0-2 lifetime against them with a 6.23 ERA in three starts.

Logic would suggest that the Rangers would have a good chance to reduce their magic number even further today. Texas has prevailed in 11 of 15 meetings with the last-place Mariners this season, including wins in six of the eight games held at Safeco Field.