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On Deck: Mariners



    On Deck will be here all season to provide you with everything you need to know (and a few things you don't) about every Rangers series during the 2013 season. 

    The Opponent: After a brutal June playing a bunch of teams with World Series aspirations, the Rangers get a break to open July against a slumping Mariners team ripe for the picking.

    Past 2013 Meetings: The Rangers are 7-2 against the Mariners this season and had the memorable 14-inning loss to fall short of a sweep in their last meeting on May 26 in Seattle.

    Pitching Matchups: Tuesday — Jusin Grimm (7-5, 5.56 ERA) vs. Joe Saunders (5-8, 4.98); Wednesday — Derek Holland (6-4, 3.14) vs. Felix Hernandez (8-4, 2.70); Thursday — Martin Perez (2-1, 2.37) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (7-3, 2.42).

    What's Hot: Engel Beltre is making the most of his opportunity to make his debut in the bigs. Not even a baseball off the face could stop him on Sunday as he scored on a squeeze play. He's hitting .400 in his 10 at-bats and has shown explosiveness on the bases. Leonys Martin has continued his tear and it hitting .389 over the last week and is in the midst of a hitting streak that has spanned more than two weeks. And look who's starting to heat up, it's shortstop Elvis Andrus, who's been on a season-long skid at the plate. Over the last week, though, he's hitting .318 with a double and three RBIs. On the mound, Derek Holland is coming off a two-hit shutout in Yankee Stadium and Martin Perez tossed 6 2/3 shutout innings against the Reds on Friday. Neal Cotts, well, he's just been awesome in relief, as always. He's now given up just one earned run in 22 2/3 innings this year.

    The Mariners have one of the hottest young middle infield prospects in the game this year in second baseman Nick Franklin, who's hitting .350 over the last week, while a veteran on the complete opposite of the service time spectrum is still crushing it as Raul Ibanez has a double, a triple and two homers in the past week at the ripe old age of 41.

    What's Not: After going through the first few months of the season virtually flawless, Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers are starting to show some wear and tear as they've been used a bit excessively. Scheppers surrendered a hit and two walks, while being charged with two runs on Sunday as the Rangers held on to take the series with the Reds. Nick Tepesch struggled again on Saturday and could be the odd man out when Colby Lewis returns to the rotation, or when the Rangers make a move to acquire a starting pitcher prior to the trade deadline. A couple of the Rangers' hottest bats recently, Ian Kinsler and A.J. Pierzynski, have combined to hit just .202, literally (.091 and .111, respectively), over the last week.

    Saunders, who's struggled this season but was successful in his last time out against Texas, is coming off a horrible outing when he gave up six runs in just 1 2/3 innings while giving up three homers.

    Familiar Faces: After bouncing back and forth between Seattle and the Mariners' Triple-A team in Tacoma, two former Rangers prospects are back on the big squad now, as first baseman Justin Smoak is swinging a decent bat after struggling earlier this season and Blake Beavan is back in the starting rotation after bouncing back and forth earlier in the year and is coming off a solid outing but won't appear in this series.