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While his hitting streak may have come to an end Sunday against the Angels, Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz is still one of the hottest hitters in baseball.
Cruz's career-high 19-game hitting streak was halted in the Rangers' 4-1 loss, and a base knock would have made him the sixth player with a hitting streak of at least 20 games in the Major Leagues this season.
That includes fellow outfielder Josh Hamilton, whose torrid month of June was fueled by a 23-game hitting streak.
Despite the streak coming to an end, Cruz has still been the spark in the Rangers' lineup of late. During his hitting streak, Cruz was 30-for-78 with four home runs and 18 RBIs.
"Right now, I'm feeling good at the plate," Cruz said. "I'm seeing the ball well and everything is going good. I'm back on track."
Cruz will be a tough task for Mariners pitcher Jason Vargas, who has struggled to find success against the Rangers. In three starts and five career games against Texas, Vargas is 0-2 with a 6.16 ERA. During that span, he's given up 13 earned runs over 19 innings. In his previous start at the Ballpark in Arlington on April 9, Vargas gave up five runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Cruz has blazed the opposite trail of Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who hit just .246 in July. It was the first time since September 2008 that he did not bat at least .300, a streak of nine consecutive months.
"I see him fouling off a lot more pitches than I did last year," said manager Don Wakamatsu. "Not because he is missing, but because the pitches are not as good as he was afforded last year, in my opinion."
Wakamatsu credits that to the struggling hitters that surround Ichiro in the Mariners' lineup.
"You look at our offense and [opponents] may be pitching him a little different," Wakamatsu said. "He's the only .300 hitter in the lineup and he normally doesn't walk, so they are forcing him to swing at pitches a little farther out of the zone than he normally does."
Rangers: Vlad scheduled for time off
Manager Ron Washington is thinking about using third baseman Michael Young as his designated hitter in Tuesday's opener against the Mariners. He's concerned about DH Vladimir Guerrero, who is hitting .234 (15-for-64) with one home run and 10 RBIs since the All-Star break. With the Rangers off the next two Mondays, Washington would like to give Guerrero a day off on Tuesday and again on Sunday.
Mariners: Lopez nearing return
The Mariners expect to have the left side of their infield back for Tuesday's opener against the Rangers, as Jose Lopez is expected to return to third base with Jack Wilson at shortstop.
"Lopez ran [Sunday], but still feels it in [his left hamstring]. We will it will be safe to hold him out [on Sunday] and play him when we get back home," Wakamatsu said. "Jack Wilson's legs are a little bit tired -- so give him a day. We want to give him days off here and there. We're being precautionary with him. He has played good since he's been back and played with a lot of energy."
Washington said reserve infielder Andres Blanco will be his shortstop should Elvis Andrus need a day off. The recently acquired Cristian Guzman has been a shortstop for most of his career, but he'll likely stay at second base, at least until Ian Kinsler comes off the disabled list. ... Wakamatsu used a different lineup for the 27th consecutive game Sunday against the Twins.