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SEA@TEX: Perez hurls 4 1/3 innings of hitless relief

The Rangers are cruising toward another postseason berth and the Mariners are trying to finish their season with pride and a look to the future.

On Friday night, when the clubs begin a three-game series at Safeco Field, the teams will be in assessment mode. For the Rangers, it will be about protecting their starting rotation so it lines up well for October. For the Mariners, it will be about trying to relieve a tired bullpen.

Texas will give the ball to 21-year-old pitcher Martin Perez, who has done well in spot starts and relief appearances in his rookie season. Perez was particularly effective in his last appearance on Saturday against the Mariners in Arlington. In that game, Perez was called upon to pick up for starter Scott Feldman, who was hit hard and departed in the third inning.

Perez was up to the task, no-hitting the Mariners for 4 1/3 innings and striking out five.

"I thought he was great," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He came in and kept the ball down. He had a good changeup. He was aggressive."

Perez has made three starts this season with a 2.60 ERA, and he will get another chance on Friday against the Mariners.

"I can be ready if they give me the right amount of days," Perez said. "I'm here to help the team win."

Meanwhile, the Mariners relief corps needs some relief of its own. Tuesday night's game went 18 innings and Wednesday's went 11. Seattle manager Eric Wedge made starter Blake Beavan available out of the bullpen despite the fact that Beavan was slated to start Saturday's game, although Beavan did not pitch Wednesday.

"We're monitoring all that and communicating with them, too," Wedge said of not pushing the relievers too much. "To their credit, I mean the last couple of nights there have been times we've taken them out of the game because we felt like it was the best thing for them and didn't want to push them.

"They were really fighting to go back out. That's what you want. That's pro, that's toughness, that's being a good teammate. When one of your teammates has a tough day, you want to pick them up."

Rangers: Hamilton returns to Texas, Beltre in lineup
Josh Hamilton had hoped to play in Thursday's series finale against the Angels but instead was slated to return to Texas. A sinus infection kept him out of the lineup each of the last two games and caused him to exit Tuesday's game after three innings.

"It's not a big deal," Hamilton said. "I've played through sinus stuff before. This time of the season, it matters tremendously. ... Every time I get sick it turns into a sinus infection, and that causes me to get off kilter, off balance. If your head's a little stopped up, you can get a little starry-eyed, dizzy."

Adrian Beltre, who was suffering from a gastrointestinal order, missed Wednesday's win over the Angels but passed a test and returned to the lineup for Thursday's game, batting fourth and starting at designated hitter. He went 1-for-4 with a go-ahead, two-run homer in the ninth inning of a 3-1 victory.

• This season marks the seventh year of 30 or more saves for closer Joe Nathan and the veteran right-hander's first such season since 2009, when he saved 47 games for the Twins. Nathan has become the 14th pitcher with at least seven 30-save seasons since 1969 and one of only five active pitchers, joining Mariano Rivera (14), Jonathan Papelbon (seven), Francisco Cordero (seven) and Jason Isringhausen (seven).

• Washington has been pleased with how Geovany Soto has handled the pitching staff of his new team and how he's handled splitting catching responsibilities with Mike Napoli. He's batting .208 with four homers and 21 RBIs in 37 games since getting traded from the Cubs to the Rangers on July 31.

"I like the way he gets pitchers ready for games, the way he takes charge," Washington said. "We've found out he's a threat with the bat, too. His average doesn't look good, but he's a threat. He's starting to get his whole stroke back."

Mariners: Iwakuma on the hill
Hisashi Iwakuma is set to take the mound for the Mariners on Friday. After a string of five solid starts, Iwakuma struggled in 3 2/3 innings against the A's. He bounced back with a good effort against the Rangers in Arlington on Sept. 14, allowing just two runs in 5 1/3 innings, but was stuck with the loss.

"Their lineup is really tough, more than other teams," Iwakuma said of the Rangers through interpreter Daisuke Sekiba. "So I really concentrated for this game and was very energized to pitch. I got hit by two home runs, but I tried to keep pitching and just minimize the damage."

• The Mariners have homered in 10 straight games (13 total homers during the streak). They have also hit 21 homers over their last 18 home games, including at least two homers in six of their last 18 games at Safeco Field.

Worth noting
• The Rangers have gone 23-20 against their division this season after a 40-17 mark in 2011.

• Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen has recorded a save in each of the Mariners' six wins in September.

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