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TOR@TEX: Holland fans nine over 7 1/3 strong frames

After a first half riddled by offensive inconsistencies, frustration at home and the growing pains that come with a young squad, the All-Star break is coming at the perfect time for the Mariners.

That's a problem their first opponent after the break, the Rangers, have not experienced during the first half. The four days off will come at a good time for the Rangers, though, as they have had their problems with runners in scoring position as of late and recently snapped a five-game skid.

"We lost five in a row and you don't know the feelings we were having while we were losing," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "You don't know what that's like. Not like that. Three of them were one-run ballgames. We had opportunities to win them. That's the disappointing part. Putting yourself in a position and not coming through."

Still, the Mariners' troubles have been more widespread throughout the first three months. With just one series win in their last nine attempts, Seattle's struggles have come as their schedule becomes more balanced with home games. In their final two homestands before the break, the Mariners went just 7-12 and are hitting .195 as a team at Safeco Field.

"It's probably more important than it will be in years after this, because of the youth and all the struggles and all the energy that's been played out here in the first half, both mentally and physically," manager Eric Wedge said. "Because these guys are so young, particularly the position players, and the grind. A lot of these guys weren't even here at this time last year, so you have to understand that and be respectful of that, which I am."

Kevin Millwood is scheduled to start for Seattle at Safeco Field, looking to continue his success against the Rangers. In three starts vs. Texas, the right-hander is 1-0 with a 1.06 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 17 innings against his former team.

The Mariners are 2-1 against the Rangers with Millwood on the mound, but Texas starter Derrick Holland could even the score Friday.

The left-hander relishes pitching against the Mariners, he's 6-2 with a 4.54 ERA and 57 strikeouts in his career vs. Seattle. That's Holland's most wins and strikeouts against any franchise.

Mariners: Ryan turning it around at the plate
• Brendan Ryan continues to start at shortstop for the Mariners because of his Gold Glove-caliber defense, despite his struggles at the plate. His .188 batting average is proof enough of what he went through offensively in the first half, but if you look at the big picture, you'll see a hitter that's greatly improved.

In his last 20 games, Ryan is hitting .276 (16-for-58), raising his average from .156 on June 15.

"I just want to have more competitive at-bats," Ryan said. "Not have one or two good at-bats in a day, just be more competitive and not try to do too much. I think I get caught up in trying to drive a gap or clear the bases with nobody on instead of just playing small ball."

Rangers: Best start in club history after 86 games
• The Rangers took their best record ever into the All-Star break. Texas' 52-34 mark bettered its 50-36 mark obtained in 1996 and 2010.

• Texas catcher Mike Napoli is 6-for-18 (.333) in his career against Millwood, with four doubles, one homer and four RBIs.

• The Rangers have outscored their opponents by 79 runs, the largest gap in the Majors. The Yankees are second, outscoring opponents by 65.

The Mariners, though, have outscored the Rangers 57-42 this season.

Worth noting
• The Rangers entered the break with the American League West lead for the third straight year. Conversely, it is the third consecutive season the Mariners entered the break with a record below .500.

• Mariners designated hitter Jesus Montero has eight RBIs in the season series against Texas and is one of five Seattle players with at least six RBIs against the Rangers this year. Comments