<
>

Blalock hits two homers for Texas

SEATTLE (AP) -- The surprising Texas Rangers are beginning to
believe in themselves, especially when they're on the road.

And why not? They're leading the AL West by 2{ games over
Oakland and are 3 ahead of Anaheim.

Hank Blalock hit two of Texas' five homers, lifting the Rangers
to an 8-5 victory over the last-place Seattle Mariners on Monday
night.

"When you have guys like Hank who have great power, they can
hit balls out of any ballpark," Rangers shortstop Michael Young
said.

When the Rangers finished last for the fourth straight season in
2003, they were 28-53 on the road. They're 18-18 on the road this
season.

"Before, we used to feel very comfortable at home and we'd just
try to go out and battle on the road," Young said. "Now, we're
starting to feel like we can make adjustments and have good at-bats
regardless of where we're playing."

Blalock added a double and three RBI, and Alfonso Soriano, Mark
Teixeira and Kevin Mench also homered for the Rangers, who beat the
Mariners for the seventh straight time this season and eighth of 10
overall.

Young is hitting .327 after going 2-for-6, while Blalock is
hitting .315. They're beginning to get noticed.

"Young and Blalock might be as good a two players as there are
in the American League. And they're getting better," Mariners
manager Bob Melvin said.

Texas won a day after its season-high eight-game winning streak
was stopped by Houston. The Mariners have lost six out of seven.

Without Alex Rodriguez, the Rangers are 13 games over .500 for
the second time this season. After 73 games last season, Texas
trailed first-place Seattle by 21{ games and were 19 under .500.

Rangers manager Buck Showalter said it's too early for his team
to do any celebrating, but was impressed his team homered five
times at Safeco Field, a ballpark that is notoriously tough on
hitters.

"There's no cheapies here," he said.

A day after trading ace Freddy Garcia to the Chicago White Sox,
the Mariners gave up five homers to Texas for the second time this
season. The Rangers hit five in a win over the Mariners April 25 at
Arlington.

Blalock, who hit 29 homers last season when he was an All-Star
for the first time, had his 19th and 20th home runs to tie Boston's
Manny Ramirez for the AL lead. It was his third career two-homer
game and second in 2004.

"He's having an incredible year," Young said of Blalock.
"Hank's a great hitter. He's a smart hitter. He's got a good plan
every time he comes to the plate. When you combine that with his
great natural talent, you're going to have a dominant hitter."

Texas' first seven runs came on homers.

Blalock's second homer, a two-run shot to right off J.J. Putz,
gave the Rangers a 7-4 lead in the sixth.

Texas went ahead 5-3 in the fifth on Teixeira's two-run homer,
his 11th of the season, before the Mariners came back in the bottom
of the inning to score on Jolbert Cabrera's RBI double.

The Rangers tied the score at 3 in the fourth on Mench's
line-drive homer to left, his eighth.

In the first, Blalock homered ahead of Soriano, who hit a
426-foot shot to center. It was Soriano's 12th of the season.

The Mariners went ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the inning on Bret
Boone's three-run homer, his 10th and first in 59 at-bats since
June 5.

Seattle's Ryan Franklin (3-6) gave up four homers and five runs
in five innings. In all, he allowed eight hits and three walks,
while striking out four. Franklin is 0-3 with a 12.46 against Texas
this season.

Franklin gave credit to the Rangers hitters.

"Every pitch they hit out, they should have hit out," he said.

The Rangers' Ricardo Rodriguez (1-0), making his first major
league relief appearance and his first appearance since July 1,
2003, pitched 3 2-3 innings to get the win. He gave up a run on
five hits and a walk, with one strikeout.

Francisco Cordero pitched the ninth for his 23rd save.

Rangers starter Nick Bierbrodt lasted only 1 2-3 innings, giving
up three runs on two hits and five walks.

The Rangers' bullpen gave up only one run in 7 1-3 innings.

Catcher Rod Barajas said Texas had a solid corps of relievers
now.

"It's often overlooked when they talk about the best bullpens,
but they go out there and do the job," Barajas said. "We have
some guys who can bring it."

Game notes
Blalock is 22-for-49 (.449) with five homers and 12 RBI in
his last 11 games. ... Barajas extended his career-high hitting
streak to 12 games, the longest by a Texas player this season. ...
LHP Matt Thornton will start for the Mariners in place of Garcia on
Thursday against Texas. It will be Thornton's first major league
start. Thornton pitched four scoreless innings in a 5-1 loss Sunday
against San Diego, his major league debut. Garcia was traded to the
Chicago White Sox Sunday. ... Putz hit Mench in the left elbow with
a pitch in the seventh. "It hurts. It's sore. We'll see how it is
tomorrow," Mench said.