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TEX@HOU: Baker allows two runs over 6 2/3 innings

Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma started the season on the disabled list with a torn tendon in the middle finger of his right hand. That still wasn't good enough for Scott Baker to make the team out of Spring Training.

The Mariners cut Baker loose and he was picked up by the Rangers. Now Baker and Iwakuma face off on Friday night in the second of a four-game series.

"No hard feelings, they were really good to me," Baker said. "I know things might have been different if I had pitched better but I got into a funk and ran out of time. They made an effort to keep me in the organization but it didn't work out. No hard feelings, it will be fun."

Iwakuma is 5-1 with a 2.42 ERA (12 earned runs in 44 2/3 innings) over his past seven starts and has 10 quality starts in his past 12 outings. His 2.90 ERA is the seventh lowest in the American League and, with a record of 13-6, his .684 winning percentage is the ninth best.

Iwakuma also has 9.77 strikeouts per walk and 0.77 walks per nine innings. Both of those are the best ratios in Mariners history.

"He's been like this ever since he got here," Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager said. "He throws all of his pitches for strikes."

Baker has been in the bullpen for most of the season with the occasional spot start but now he is getting a chance to start again because of injuries to Miles Mikolas and Yu Darvish.

Mikolas is sidelined with shoulder fatigue. He had an injection Thursday and will probably resume throwing in the next two to three days. Darvish is sidelined with mild inflammation in his right elbow and is unlikely to throw again this season.

Baker has been bothered by some stiffness in his neck but is still ready to go. He is 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in two starts and six relief appearances since the All-Star break. He was 0-3 with a 6.24 ERA in four starts and 11 relief appearances in the first half. Baker has always been a starter in his career and part of it has been adjusting to a new role of spot starter and long reliever.

"In any new role or position, there is a period of adjustment," Baker said. "It took time getting used to the role I was in. I had a couple of poor outings, but even in the first half I didn't feel that far off. It's just nice to get the results you want. But results are a byproduct of preparing yourself and executing pitches."

Mariners: Rodney needs consistent work
Mariners closer Fernando Rodney earned his 41st save of the season (second in the AL) on Wednesday in Oakland and has converted 11 consecutive save opportunities and 41 of 44 overall.

Rodney's 41 saves are the second-most in Mariners history behind Kazuhiro Sasaki's 45 in 2001.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said Rodney is at his best when he gets consistent work, rather than waiting around for the next save opportunity.

Rodney has pitched on two or fewer days of rest 45 times this and on longer rest only 13 times. McClendon said he tries to get Rodney in the game even for just one out to keep him pitching on a near-daily basis.

"Fernando, if you really look at it, he's probably better when he's out there on a consistent basis," McClendon said. "Rather than two or three days off at a time, we can get him out there three, maybe four days in a row, he's a lot better."

Rangers: Martin trying to finish strong
Outfielder Leonys Martin did not start Thursday with a left-hander on the mound for the Mariners. But he will be back in the leadoff spot Friday with right-hander Iwakuma on the mound for the Mariners.

Martin has been swinging the bat well lately and is hoping to finish strong. He went into the four-game series against the Mariners hitting .380 in his last 21 games. He had also reached base safely in 17 of his last 18 starts.

"I'm trying to be consistent and I am trying to swing at strikes," Martin said. "I want to keep doing thing. I feel way different at the plate now. I'm trying to take a plan when I go up to the plate and follow through with it. I'm trying to do that all the time."

Even though Martin has started swinging the bat well, he is still not playing regularly against left-handers. Martin is hitting .213 off left-handers so manager Ron Washington has been platooning him with Daniel Robertson.

Worth noting:
• McClendon doesn't see the Rangers as a pushover at this point despite their record.

"It's been my experience that in fact they're probably more dangerous," McClendon said. "They're a lot looser and they don't have anything to lose. It makes it even tougher."

• Washington said he would like to get Luis Sardinas at least one start at shortstop during the four-game series against the Mariners and give Elvis Andrus a complete night off. Sardinas joined the Rangers in Kansas City as a September callup.

• Adrian Beltre is 10-for-28 with three home runs off of Iwakuma. He is one of three players with three career home runs off Iwakuma. The others are Yoenis Cespedes and Ian Kinsler.

• Austin Jackson is 6-for-17 (.353) and Robinson Cano is 5-for-14 (.357) off of Baker in their careers.

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