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By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- It's no surprise that Felix Hernandez has been dominant in his recent outings for the Seattle Mariners, but Martin Perez's equally hot stretch for the Texas Rangers is a bit more unexpected.
Hernandez looks to avoid a third loss this season to the AL West leaders as he opposes Perez on Saturday night in Arlington.
Seattle's ace improved to 4-1 with a 1.55 ERA over his last nine starts after allowing four hits and striking out nine in eight innings of Sunday's 2-0 win over Milwaukee. He's given up two runs or fewer eight times in that span, but he's also tossed at least 101 pitches an equal amount.
Rather than attempt to earn his 10th career shutout, Hernandez (12-5, 2.28 ERA) decided to shut it down.
"I'm just being honest. I didn't want to go out there, tired and lose the game," Hernandez said.
The right-hander, who leads the AL in ERA and is fourth in the majors with 178 strikeouts, gave up solo homers to Ian Kinsler and David Murphy but also struck out seven in seven innings of a 4-2 win over Texas on July 3.
Hernandez didn't pitch as well against the Rangers (70-52) the first two times he faced them this season, though, allowing four runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-3 loss April 11 before allowing five in 5 2-3 frames of a 5-2 defeat May 25.
Despite last month's solid performance there, Hernandez is just 5-8 with a 4.23 ERA in 17 career starts in Arlington, where the Mariners won Friday's series opener 3-1.
Kyle Seager, who had been hitless in his previous 21 at-bats, hit a two-run homer in the eighth before Justin Smoak's ninth-inning solo shot as Seattle (56-65) beat the Rangers for the fourth time in five meetings.
"The thing about him, you would never know it, the way he handles it, carries himself whether he's 10 for 20 or 0 for 21," acting manager Robby Thompson said. "That's the sign of a pro right there. He's a battler, that's why he's in there in the third hole."
Seager is hitting .500 during a 12-game hitting streak at Rangers Ballpark, which he'll look to extend against Perez in this contest.
Perez (5-3, 3.44) is coming off the best start of his career, giving up one run on a homer in the ninth in a four-hitter to beat Houston 6-1 on Sunday. He's 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA over his last three outings.
"When I go to the mound I think, `I'm the best here, and I have the ball,'" Perez said. "I just want to throw."
Manager Ron Washington has been impressed with the 22-year-old left-hander, who was called up for good June 22.
"He has good mechanics," Washington said. "I think when he gets erratic, it's only because he tries to do too much. As long as he stays throwing the ball through the catcher and spots his fastball down in the zone the way he's capable of doing, he'll be fine."
Perez gave up an unearned run and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings July 4 before the Rangers rallied for a 5-2 victory over the Mariners, who held Texas to four hits Friday.
Former Mariner Adrian Beltre had two, and he's hitting .457 over his last 13. Texas, which holds a one-half game lead over Oakland in the West, has dropped two of three following a season-best eight-game winning streak.
Beltre is hitting .438 during an eight-game hitting streak against his former team.
Updated August 17, 2013