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TEX@HOU: Holland fans six, holds Astros to three runs

Left-hander Derek Holland will try to keep Texas atop the American League West when he faces the Mariners on Friday. Seattle just hopes to keep within striking distance of .500.

The Rangers are 11-2 in August, the best mark in the AL, and they have overtaken the A's for first place in the division. The team is riding hot performances from players such as Leonys Martin, who has risen from part-time outfielder to leadoff hitter and everyday center fielder.

Martin is hitting .275 (19-69) with a home run, 10 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 16 games hitting first. He went 0-for-4 on Wednesday, however, and is still learning to be disciplined at the plate.

"Sometimes, he takes pitches I wish he would've swung, but I'm not going to hit him with that, because we're trying to get him comfortable and figuring it out for himself," manager Ron Washington said. "... He'll learn, but I'm not saying anything to him, because he's trying. He'll figure it out. Along with people in his ear, he'll figure out."

Since riding an offense that was one of the best in the Majors to a 15-10 record in July, the Mariners -- and their bats -- have cooled off considerably. They are 5-8 in August.

A bright spot has been the emergence of a dominant closer in Danny Farquhar. While the rookie blew his first save on Wednesday, he was successful in his first five opportunities, beginning with Seattle's 8-4 win in Baltimore on Aug. 3.

"He hasn't been in this situation before, but I think he's got that mentality to forget about it," acting manager Robby Thompson said. "It's over and done with, so move on. Short memories are huge in the closer's role."

Before Wednesday's loss, Farquhar ranked third among AL relief pitchers, averaging 13.62 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

"I would say my confidence really started getting going after the Twins game," said Farquhar, who posted five strikeouts in two innings against Minnesota on July 28. "Way back, I was throwing the ball really well there, and I'm just building on that. I think that's how I got myself in the closer's role, just by throwing the ball well and having the confidence. I'm just rolling with that."

Mariners: Iwakuma's back won't stop him from pitching
All-Star Hisashi Iwakuma will toe the rubber for Seattle on Friday. Iwakuma had an uncharacteristic outing against the Brewers on Saturday. He took the loss after cruising through six shutout innings and then giving up six runs in the seventh before recording an out.

The 32-year-old said he tweaked his back lunging for a bunt single by Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez leading off that rocky sixth. But acting manager Robby Thompson said on Thursday that the veteran hadn't had any issues with the back during the week's preparations.

"I haven't heard anything that he's any different," Thompson said. "I don't think it's anything serious. I'm sure he'll be ready to go."

In 25 starts, Iwakuma is 10-6 with a 3.02 ERA.

Rangers: Blackley could be up in September
Travis Blackley, whom the Rangers acquired from the Astros on Wednesday and sent to Triple-A Round Rock, could be a September callup, manager Ron Washington said.

"[Blackley's] been a big league starter, and he's had some success," Washington said. "He's certainly had some success against us. The way our starting pitchers have been dropping, we were very lucky to get a guy like that. Hopefully, he can pay dividends for us."

Texas has lost a handful of starters to injury, including Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Nick Tepesch. Tepesch could potentially rejoin the club, but his timetable is uncertain.

Worth noting
• Mariners rookie Brad Miller hit a pair of home runs against Tampa Bay on Tuesday in his first Major League appearance in his home state of Florida. He knocked his other two big league homers on July 19 in Houston. Miller is just the third Major Leaguer since 1969 to record his first four career home runs with a pair of multi-homer games, joining J.P. Arencibia of the Blue Jays (2010-11) and Carlos May of the White Sox (1969).

• The Rangers' 70-51 record is tied for second-best in club history after 121 games. Last year's team equaled the feat, and the 1999 team holds the record with a 72-49 mark.

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