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CHC@SEA: Iwakuma strikes out five over eight solid

For a pitcher trying to give up fewer home runs, the dry Texas heat is more likely to exacerbate the malady than cure it. Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma went 0-2 in his last three starts with a 5.40 ERA. Previously, he was 7-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 14 starts, but has given up five home runs in his past two games.

Now, the Japanese right-hander will try to complete the three-game series sweep for the Mariners. To do so, he'll have to face one of the American League's most potent lineups in one of the game's most hitter-friendly park.

"Overall I thought I pitched well," he said after a no-decision in his last outing against the Cubs. "I was able to get strike one for the most part and get ahead early in the count. Except for the two home runs I gave up that were to the fat part of the plate, overall I felt good."

Manager Eric Wedge said Iwakuma has been outstanding all season and is a strong contender for an AL All-Star berth, but has just uncharacteristically left a few pitches in the wrong spots in his last few starts.

"He had some misses up and some misses over. And that's what he was so good with early on. That's what he does. He executes pitches, and when he misses, he misses in the right spot. If it's on the plate, it's down. If it's away, it's out. If it's in, it's in. Good misses."

Iwakuma may not have much margin for error with the Rangers' Martin Perez taking the mound. Since being recalled for the second time on June 22, Perez is 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA. The 22-year-old is no stranger to the Mariners, having faced Seattle in three of his first 10 career outings in 2012, going 0-1 with a 2.89 ERA.

"It's just being able to hit spots, keep the ball in a good area and mix well to keep batters off balance," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "That's what he's done his last two outings. He's mixed well and kept them off balance."

Rangers: Martin's hit streak ends at 15, still stealing
• Leonys Martin's hit streak ended at 15 games after he went 0-4 on Wednesday. But another streak lived on, as Martin stole his 16th consecutive base after grounding into a fielder's choice in the seventh inning. Martin has now stolen a base in six straight games.

"We knew he could run, and he's finally catching on," Washington said. "I think he and [third-base coach Garry Pettis] have done a good job working out there. Once the league starts recognizing he's a base stealer and they start holding the ball, stepping off, we'll see exactly where he goes from there."

Mariners: Saunders almost healed
• Wedge said outfielder Michael Saunders' finger has nearly fully healed. He likely won't be in the lineup against Perez, but figures to get time when Seattle faces three right-handers in Cincinnati this weekend.

Saunders has been unable to grip a bat since getting spiked in his right middle finger against the Cubs on Friday. While he has been used as a pinch-runner, he's only started throwing again in the past couple days. He pinch-ran for Kendrys Morales on Wednesday night and stayed in the game, drawing a walk in the 10th inning and scoring on Kyle Seager's winning home run.

• Struggling closer Tom Wilhelmsen got his first save since June 10 for the Mariners on Wednesday. The right-hander had allowed 14 earned runs over 14 games, but hasn't allowed a single run in his last five outings.

Worth noting:
•The Rangers are 23-20 all-time on the Fourth of July, having won nine of their last 13 games.

• Texas had won five straight series against Seattle, but will lose the current one after dropping the first two games 9-2 on Tuesday and 4-2 on Wednesday.

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