Dan Haren couldn't ask for a better opponent to face as he tries to avoid losing five straight starts for the first time.
The right-hander will take the mound Thursday night when the visiting Los Angeles Angels open a four-game series with the Seattle Mariners, a team Haren has dominated like no other in his career.Haren is 10-5 versus Seattle for his most wins against any club, and his 2.60 ERA in 19 starts versus the Mariners is his best against any opponent he's faced more than nine times.Haren, 4-2 with a 2.27 ERA in nine starts at Safeco Field, is looking to continue his dominance of the Mariners (21-25) after losing a career high-tying fourth consecutive start Saturday night in San Diego.He pitched well enough to win, allowing three runs and striking out five over 6 2/3 innings, but the Angels (20-25) again struggled offensively in a 3-2 defeat. Haren (1-5, 4.37 ERA) also lost four starts in a row April 23-May 9, 2005, while with Oakland."I'm better than this," said Haren, who has dropped seven of nine decisions dating to last year. "I feel good, health-wise, at least from two starts ago. I thought I looked better as the game went on. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to win games. I'm frustrated at 1-5. I'm not happy about it."Manager Mike Scioscia believes wins will start to come for Haren."I thought as he got into the game, his stuff was there," Scioscia said Saturday. "He's much further along right now than he has been at any point in the season, and that's encouraging."Seeing the Mariners step into the batter's box may also be an encouraging sign for Haren, who's held Ichiro Suzuki to a .227 average (15 for 66) and Justin Smoak to one hit in 13 at-bats.Mariners rookie Alex Liddi, who has never faced Haren, hit a grand slam Wednesday afternoon as Seattle beat Texas 5-3 for its fifth win in six games following a 1-6 stretch.Liddi is 4 for 7 over his last three games after batting .136 (3 for 22) in his previous six."He's a guy that's capable of doing some damage up there. He works as hard as anybody we have," manager Eric Wedge said. "He's still a young hitter, but he's learned how to hit."Haren's counterpart Thursday, Jason Vargas, has also pitched well in this AL West rivalry. The left-hander owns a 2.39 ERA in 10 appearances against the Angels but is just 3-3.Vargas (5-3, 3.34) bounced back from his worst start of the season Saturday in Colorado, giving up three runs and five hits over seven innings of a 10-3 victory. He allowed a season-high five runs in a 6-1 loss at Boston on May 14.He now gets to face Los Angeles, which is one of the lowest-scoring teams in the majors. The Angels were held to one run through 10 innings Wednesday afternoon in Oakland before Alberto Callaspo doubled in two in the 11th of a 3-1 win -- Los Angeles' second straight following a three-game skid."We continue to pitch well through the tough times of our start," Scioscia said. "It took a big hit in extra innings, but we got it done."This will be the first meeting between these teams in 2012 after Los Angeles went 12-7 in last season's series. Haren was 3-1 with a 2.72 ERA in five of those matchups, while Vargas went 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three outings.