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.
|April 15, 2013||Stephen Pryor||15-Day DL||Torn right lat muscle|
|April 12, 2013||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Fractured finger|
|April 11, 2013||Michael Saunders||15-Day DL||Sprained right shoulder|
|April 10, 2013||Michael Saunders||Day-to-Day||Sprained right shoulder|
|March 25, 2013||Josh Kinney||60-Day DL||Stress reaction, left shoulder|
|March 19, 2013||Brendan Ryan||Day-to-Day||Stiffness in neck|
|April 20, 2013||Nick Tepesch||Day-to-Day||Left game - right arm bruise|
|April 11, 2013||Justin Miller||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|April 07, 2013||Matt Harrison||15-Day DL||Inflamed nerve in lower back|
|April 07, 2013||Yu Darvish||Day-to-Day||Left game - blister|
|March 24, 2013||Neftali Feliz||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Joakim Soria||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- After all those solo home runs, Nelson Cruz and the Texas Rangers got a few extra runs with their big swings.
They might finally be finding their offensive groove.
Cruz hit his fifth career grand slam, one of four homers by the Rangers in an 11-3 victory Sunday to complete a three-game sweep over the Seattle Mariners .
"It's good to have that kind of momentum," Cruz said.
Leonys Martin 's first major league homer tied the game 1-all in the third, the first of four consecutive innings that Texas homered. That was the 19th homer of the season for Texas, the 15th solo shot, but the rest Sunday produced multiple runs.
Mitch Moreland hit a two-run homer in the fourth, followed by Cruz's slam that went an estimated 431 feet to left-center field that capped a five-run fifth that chased Aaron Harang (0-2). Adrian Beltre hit a two-run homer in the sixth. It was the third homer this season for each of them, Beltre's snapping a 1-for-13 slide and Moreland's a 1-for-20.
"It looked like the first couple of innings we were having problems just trying to figure Harang out," manager Ron Washington said. "Then Martin got us on the board. After that, pitch count started rising a little bit and he made some mistakes and we capitalized. It was nice to have that breakout."
The Rangers set their season high for runs in a game and scored 23 times in the series. In the series-opening 7-0 victory, they matched what had been their season high and had a six-run inning that doubled their previous highest-scoring frame.
"We definitely took a step forward for sure with the runs we put up over the three games," Moreland said. "If we can keep doing that, and keep taking care of business, and our pitching keeps throwing like they are, I think we'll be all right."
The Rangers (12-6) overtook Oakland by a half-game for the AL West lead by completing their first series sweep since last June. Texas had lost seven consecutive series finales with a chance for a sweep since winning all three games at San Diego.
Justin Grimm (1-0) struck out nine and walked one over six innings in his fourth major-league start, the second this season. The right-hander allowed two runs, including an unearned run in the first that snapped the Mariners' 19-inning scoreless streak after they were shut out the first two games of the series.
Michael Kirkman pitched the final three innings for his first career save.
Grimm made his second start in place of All-Star left-hander Matt Harrison , the opening-day starter who will have surgery Tuesday for a herniated disc in his back and be out of rotation until likely after the All-Star break.
Harang had last pitched at Rangers Ballpark 10 seasons ago, yet the results weren't any better a decade later allowing eight runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings. He struck out five and walked two.
"I think the last time I pitched here, the same thing happened," Harang said. "It's one of those parks, you've got a notch up on your belt that the outcome hasn't been good. Hopefully later in the year, once we come back down here, things will be different."
In three starts at Texas for Oakland, the last on June 25, 2003, Harang had a 12.34 ERA. That figure went up to 13.22 (allowing 24 runs in 16 1-3 innings) in what was surprisingly his first loss in that stretch.
Seattle snapped its scoreless streak only two batters into Sunday's game.
Endy Chavez reached on an error leading off, getting to second base when his ground rolled off second baseman Ian Kinsler and trickled into shallow right-center field. Kyle Seager followed with his majors-leading 10th double that stretched his hitting streak to 10 games and made it 1-0. Chavez had an RBI double in the fifth, and Seager hit a solo homer in the ninth.
Seattle hitters had 11 more strikeouts, giving them 32 in the series and 63 in five games.
"I'm just upset, to say the least, to our approach with two strikes, it's something that's been addressed, something that has to be better," manager Eric Wedge said. "The strikeouts are ridiculous. ... We kind of crashed as a team offensively."
NOTES: Felix Hernandez (1-2, 2.20 ERA), whose win came on opening day, is set to start Monday when the Mariners play at Houston for the first time since 2007. ... Texas opens a three-game series at the Los Angeles Angel on Monday night with Derek Holland (1-1, 1.64) on the mound. ... Seattle has never been shut out three consecutive games. ... The Rangers said fans this weekend donated tens of thousands of essential items and $40,000 in cash donations for relief efforts in West Texas, following the fertilizer plant explosion there Wednesday night. There were 80 donors during a blood drive Sunday at Rangers Ballpark.