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SEA@TEX: Hernandez fans nine, holds Rangers to one

Felix Hernandez has made four All-Star teams, won a Cy Young Award and overpowered or outsmarted most hitters through his first 10 seasons pitching in the Major Leagues.

Yet, he's never had much luck, run support or success against the Rangers. The right-handed ace is 12-20 with a 4.10 ERA in 40 career starts against Texas.

He'll try to reverse his fortunes when the Mariners go for the series win against their AL West tormenter Saturday night at Safeco Field.

"They have a pretty good lineup," Hernandez said Friday. "They've got a lot of power, they can manufacture runs any time, like stealing a base, hitting a homer, hit-and-run. That's the toughest part. But if you make good pitches and you're down in the zone, you're gonna be OK."

Hernandez (3-1, 2.04 ERA) was more than OK his last time out against the Rangers in Arlington, going seven-plus innings and allowing one run while striking out nine. The bullpen, however, couldn't hang on as the Rangers rallied for two runs in the ninth and a 3-2 victory.

"I'm not thinking about the last one," Hernandez said.

Meanwhile, Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis (1-1, 4.22 ERA) has made 15 starts and four relief appearances in his career against Seattle, going 6-5 with a 3.62 ERA.

The crafty right-hander has made two starts since returning to the rotation for the first time since July 18, 2012 after undergoing surgery to his flexor tendon and right hip.

In his return April 14 vs. the Mariners, he pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed four runs in a 7-1 loss. In his following start, he yielded one run in 5 1/3 innings in a 6-3 win over the White Sox.

"I feel like I've fallen back into my routine," Lewis said. "I don't feel the nervousness and the anxiousness are there any more. I just go out there trying to go deep in the ballgame, go out there and have fun and put the team in position to win."

Mariners: Hart finding rhythm at the plate

Corey Hart isn't quite to the point where he can feel at ease in the batter's box. Coming off a pair of microfracture knee surgeries that wiped out his 2013 season, the designated hitter was bothered with forearm and back problems during Spring Training, and he labored, finishing Cactus League with a .132 batting average (5-for-38).

But the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Kentucky native is getting closer to regaining the form he showed with the Brewers from 2007-2012, when he hit .277 and averaged 24 home runs and 78 RBIs per season.

In the last seven games entering Friday, Hart was 11-for-27 (.407) with three doubles, a home run and two RBIs.

"He's getting better every time out. I think his legs are feeling better. He's starting to get his hands to work the way he wants," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He's recognizing pitches in and out of the zone. Listen, he's a proven Major Leaguer. He's starting to get the rust off him and I think he's starting to enjoy the journey again."

Earlier this week, Hart said he needed at bats against live pitching before he started to regain his timing.

"It's easy to hit BP off a tee but when you get up there and guys are trying to get you out and throwing all these pitches, if you haven't seen them, it takes a while to be able to see them and recognize them," Hart said. "I would start recognizing them, but I'd recognize them a little late or too early."

In Wednesday's dramatic, 5-3 win over Houston, he lined a single into left field to set up Kyle Seager's, walk-off, three-run homer.

McClendon said Hart is capable of more.

"The last three or four days of Spring Training, he started to recognize pitches, but he's still not where he needs to be," he said. "Because I've seen this guy at an All-Star level, I know what he's capable of doing so he still has a little work ahead of him."

Rangers: Hernandez, Beltre meet again

When the Rangers activated third baseman Adrian Beltre from the 15-day disabled list Friday, it ensured that Beltre and Hernandez would resume the most entertaining pitcher-hitter rivalry in the league.

Beltre is 10-for-29 with two home runs against his former teammate, an impressive mark. But numbers fail to describe the smack-talk that takes place between the friends during a game. Or what's said in the locker room.

"Obviously through the years he has had trouble against Texas," Beltre said of Hernandez. "I give him the most [trouble]. But it doesn't matter past tense. We're still facing The King. He is as nasty as anybody in the big leagues. We know we're going against one of the best in the league."

Beltre was in the No. 3 spot Friday night in the series opener against left-handed pitcher Roenis Elias and lined a double to center field in his second at-bat. With the bases loaded and one out in the ninth, he lined out to a diving Justin Smoak, who doubled up the runner at first to end the game. Beltre will likely be back in the cleanup spot with Hernandez, a righty, on the mound Saturday.

"I could keep it this way or I could change it," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "I don't know. Don't hold me to it."

Worth Noting

• Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo has missed three consecutive games with a sprained ankle. Texas third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff was placed on the disabled list Friday with a herniated disc in his back.

• Hernandez is 0-4 with a 6.29 ERA in six starts against the Rangers since the start of the 2013 season. The Mariners are 1-5 in those games. Hernandez's 20 losses to Texas are the most by a Rangers' opponent.

• The Mariners were hit by a pitch four times in Friday's 6-5 win, which equaled a club record.

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