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09/28/10 7:35 PM ET

Vargas, Harden both have something to prove

For the majority of the season, Jason Vargas actually held more wins than his teammate -- and American League Cy Young candidate -- Felix Hernandez.

With a 9-5 record on Aug. 14, it seemed Vargas was poised to finish the year strong for the Mariners. But the season has slipped away from the lefty. He's seen his numbers plummet down the stretch, as he's posted seven straight losses and hasn't won since he moved to nine wins on Aug. 14.

In that span, he's posted a 6.59 ERA, allowing 30 earned runs through 41 innings, and his command has looked way out of whack. He lasted only 4 1/3 innings on Friday, when he allowed five runs on six hits to the Rays.

Things won't get any easier in the series finale against the Rangers, either. Sure, the club already has the American League West crown wrapped up and can afford to rest some of its star players, but it still owns the best team batting average in the Majors (.276).

Vargas has struggled on the road, too. He's 2-7 with a 5.20 ERA in 14 starts away from Safeco Field. He owns a 1-2 record with a 6.23 ERA in three starts against the Rangers this season.

Opposite Vargas will be Rangers right-hander Rich Harden. He will be making his first start since Aug. 28, and will try to prevent Texas from finishing the series empty handed.

It has been an up-and-down year for Harden. He's looked solid at times, such as when he no-hit the Twins through 6 2/3 innings on Aug. 23. But in the start before that, he lasted only 2 1/3 innings after allowing three earned runs off two hits with five walks.

In his last start, Harden lasted 4 1/3 innings and gave up four earned runs off four hits.

"That's the big thing I've struggled with -- is finding consistency," Harden said after his last start. "I guess that's been the key to this season. I feel close, I feel good. ... Tonight I just missed with a few pitches. I felt I had a good off-speed pitch going. It's just frustrating."

Harden's only action in September has come out of the bullpen. He's pitched twice, and neither outing was particularly strong. On Sept. 4, he allowed three earned runs on two hits in two innings of work. On Sept. 11, he allowed an earned run off two hits in two-thirds of an inning.

Rangers: Hamilton making progress towards return
AL MVP candidate Josh Hamilton is making strides towards a return to the Rangers in time for postseason play. He's recovering from two small fractures to his right rib cage. On Tuesday, Hamilton took 20 swings off a tee and 20 more off underhand "soft-toss" pitching. He will hit more soft-toss on Wednesday, and if that goes well, he could start taking live batting practice on Thursday and play in a game on Friday. However, he hasn't started throwing yet.

Mariners: Carp done for season
First baseman Mike Carp is out for the rest of the season after an exam revealed a partially torn plantar fasciitis. Carp suffered the injury while running out a double in Saturday's game against the Rays. He had been recalled from Triple-A Tacoma three days earlier. "It will take about three weeks to heal, so he's obviously done for the year," interim manager Daren Brown said.

Worth noting
Rangers manager Ron Washington gave the night off to some of his regulars Tuesday, including third baseman Michael Young, second baseman Ian Kinsler, shortstop Elvis Andrus and designated hitter Vladimir Guererro. He said he'll give a few starters the night off on Wednesday, then play them Thursday and Friday. ... Mariners third baseman Jose Lopez dislocated the middle finger on his right hand in the sixth inning on Tuesday night. ... During his win on Tuesday, Hernandez became the seventh pitcher since 1980 to have a season with 30 quality starts.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.