Superb pitching has the Texas Rangers on the brink of sweeping their first series of the season.
Facing the Seattle Mariners' woeful offense is surely helping.The Rangers are making a bid to shut out an opponent over the course of a three-game series for the first time in 22 years Sunday against the Mariners.Texas (11-6) is third in the majors with a 2.72 ERA, a vast improvement so far after compiling a 3.99 mark last year.Pitching has been especially impressive in this series, as the Rangers have struck out 21 and held the Mariners to 10 hits -- nine singles.They followed Friday's 7-0 victory with a 5-0 win Saturday, giving them a chance to sweep the Mariners for the first time since Sept. 23-25, 2011.The Rangers haven't recorded three straight wins via shutouts since a five-game stretch from April 19-30, 1981. That included blanking Boston during a three-game sweep at home.Seattle (7-12) has never been shut out for three straight games, but the team is among the worst offensively in baseball. The Mariners are hitting .218 and averaging 3.1 runs per game, getting outscored 20-5 while dropping four of five."We're in one of those zones right now where if you do hit it hard, it's right at them," manager Eric Wedge said. "We're going through some tough times offensively right now."Texas has felt the same way this season, but its standards are much higher. The Rangers are batting .245, a drop of nearly 30 points from last season.They've collected 15 hits with seven going for extra bases -- including three homers -- in this series."The last two nights have been a step in the right direction," said left fielder David Murphy, who has three hits in two games to spike his season average 32 points to .183. "But I think it's safe to say our offense still has yet to completely click. While we're still trying to find ourselves one through nine, our pitchers are going to keep us in games and our pitchers are going to win games for us."Justin Grimm is getting another chance to do that in place of injured Matt Harrison. Grimm's first start of the season resulted in a 4-3 win at Seattle on April 11, when he allowed two runs and five hits in four innings.Aaron Harang is scheduled to make his second start for the Mariners after being acquired in a trade with Colorado earlier this month.The veteran right-hander replaced an ineffective Blake Beavan in the rotation Tuesday, and allowed three runs and seven hits with six strikeouts in five innings of a 6-2 loss to Detroit.Harang has a 12.34 ERA in three starts at Texas, but hasn't pitched in Arlington since June 25, 2003, with Cincinnati.Lance Berkman is the Ranger most familiar with Harang, going 15 for 58 (.259) with seven homers in their matchups.Kyle Seager continues to be a rare offensive bright spot for Seattle, batting .333 during a nine-game hitting streak. He has three hits in this series, and is batting .452 over his last seven games in Arlington. However, he's 0 for 3 versus Grimm.