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Vargas fans six over seven strong innings

ARLINGTON -- In his only start since joining the Rangers rotation, Scott Feldman suffered his second loss of the year against the Mariners.

Feldman gets another shot at Seattle on Tuesday.

After making two spot starts earlier this season, Feldman replaced Neftali Feliz in the rotation after Feliz was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation. Feldman gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings on three hits, the last one being a grand slam off the bat of Alex Liddi, in a 5-3 loss to the Mariners on Wednesday.

"I didn't pitch good last time," Feldman said. "I'm just trying to execute my pitches better and work quick and get those guys back in the dugout."

Feldman has failed to get out of the fifth inning in his three starts this year, lasting 4 2/3 innings in a 3-1 loss to the Royals on May 14 and 3 1/3 innings in a 7-3 win over the Yankees on April 25. He is 0-2 with a 5.11 ERA in those three starts this season.

With the Rangers thinking about signing free-agent pitcher Roy Oswalt and speculation that Feliz may return to the bullpen upon his recovery, Feldman has a chance to stay in the rotation for good.

"We know what Feldman can do. He doesn't need to audition," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Just give us innings and go as deep as possible, keep us in the ballgame. It's just been a while since he has been out there regularly."

Jason Vargas, on the other hand, has already solidified himself as a mainstay in the Mariners rotation. The left-hander is enjoying his best season in the Major Leagues, posting a 5-4 record and a career-best 3.39 ERA, which is second-best on the team among starting pitchers, behind only former Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez. Vargas' five wins are a team high.

"Vargas continues to pitch very consistently for us," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.

Vargas turned in his eighth quality start of the year in a 3-0 loss to the Angels on Thursday, allowing three runs on three hits in seven innings while striking out six and walking none. His 71 2/3 innings pitched are second in the American League behind Hernandez's 76 2/3 and his 1.02 WHIP is the fifth-best in the AL.

But in seven games at Rangers Ballpark, Vargas is 1-3 with a 4.70 ERA. In his only other start against the Rangers this year, Vargas allowed four runs on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings of a 5-3 loss on April 12.

Mariners: Ackley should be back in lineup
Coming into this series, Dustin Ackley was 0-for-15 with three strikeouts in his career against Rangers lefty Matt Harrison, who started in Monday's series opener. Wedge left Ackley out of the lineup Monday but said he should be back Tuesday. Ackley, a .273 hitter a year ago in his rookie season, is batting .246 this year.

"It's just a matchup situation," Wedge said. "He's not an unknown anymore. They've got reports on him. At times, I think he tries to do a little too much in games and overswings from time to time."

• In his last 16 games, former Rangers first baseman Justin Smoak is batting .297 with four home runs and 11 RBIs. He went 0-for-4 on Monday. The Rangers' first-round pick in 2008, Smoak is a career .274 hitter against his former team. Smoak's seven home runs at Rangers Ballpark are tied for the most on the team with Ichiro Suzuki, whose 293 hits against Texas are the most by a Rangers opponent.

Rangers: Cruz heating up at home
Nelson Cruz hit his seventh home run of the season in Monday night's 4-2 win. It was also his third in four games. Cruz also hit a grand slam in Friday's 14-3 win over the Blue Jays and a solo shot in Saturday's 8-7, 13-inning victory over Toronto.

Cruz is hitting .421 during the current homestand, with three home runs and 11 RBIs. Over his last 19 games, Cruz has batted .364 with five home runs and 21 RBIs. He drove in eight runs on Friday before being the first of three straight Rangers to hit home runs off the Blue Jays' Henderson Alvarez in the sixth inning of Saturday's win.

• In Sunday's 12-6 win over the Blue Jays, Adrian Beltre was held to less than two hits for the first time in six games. But Beltre, who went 1-for-4, capped off a seven-run second inning with a two-run home run, his 10th. Adding that to Josh Hamilton's 20 homers, the Rangers one of six teams with at least two players with double-digit long balls.

Beltre, who has hit safely in 17 of his past 18 games, is batting .340 with nine home runs and 31 RBIs in his past 38 contests. His .318 batting average and 33 RBIs are both sixth-best in the American League. Beltre has hit at least 10 home runs in 13 of his 15 big league seasons, tied for ninth-most among active players. He extended his hit streak to seven games with a single in the eighth inning on Monday.

Worth noting
• The Mariners did not steal a base on Monday, ending a streak of five straight games with at least one, their longest such streak this season.

• The Mariners, who have played an AL-leading 29 road games this year, began a nine-game stretch away from Safeco Field on Monday. The Mariners have logged 31,304 miles in the air, along with 214 miles on the rail with a train trip from New York to Boston earlier this month.

• While the Rangers lead the AL in batting average (.288) and ERA (3.27), the Mariners boast the league's best fielding percentage (.989). Comments