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Cubs Send Randy Wells To Mound; Try To Even Up Series With Mariners

(Sports Network) - Excellent pitching has propelled the Seattle Mariners to their longest winning streak of the season, a roll Cliff Lee will be seeking to extend when he takes the ball for his team's second test of a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs tonight at Safeco Field.

Seattle has ripped off five consecutive victories and given up a mere two runs over the course of that tear. Three of those wins have come via shutout, including a 1-0 verdict over Cincinnati last Friday in which Lee went the distance on a six-hitter.

Jason Vargas kept up the Mariners' pitching prowess in last night's opener of this set, with the left-hander teaming up with two Seattle relievers on a six- hitter in a 2-0 verdict over the Cubs.

Vargas (6-2) worked the first seven innings and yielded four hits and one walk while striking out seven batters. Brandon League and David Aardsma finished off the shutout, with the latter tossing a scoreless ninth for his 16th save of the year.

"I thought [Vargas] had an outstanding cutter [Tuesday]," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "I thought his changeup was outstanding. He really didn't give in."

Vargas outperformed Chicago's Ryan Dempster (5-6), who tossed an eight-inning complete game in a losing cause and struck out eight Mariners while surrendering five hits. The game's only scoring came on a two-run homer from Franklin Gutierrez in the bottom of the second inning.

Alfonso Soriano went 3-for-4 and Marlon Byrd collected a pair of hits for the Cubs, who were coming off a 12-1 home rout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Sunday in which they pounded out 18 hits. Chicago has now lost three of its last four, however, and been shut out twice during that span.

"It's been a problem for us as far as scoring runs consistently," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said after Tuesday's game "You give up a couple of runs, you expect to win."

Generating offense could be a problem for Chicago again in tonight's tilt. Lee has permitted two earned runs or less in eight of his 10 starts this season and sports an excellent 2.55 ERA along with a 5-3 record for the year. Over his last five appearances, the 2008 American League Cy Young Award honoree has gone 3-1 with a 1.76 ERA and held the opposition to a .193 average at the plate.

Lee, who struck out seven without issuing a walk in last week's gem against the Reds, also owns a 2-0 mark with a 1.99 ERA in three lifetime matchups with Chicago. He had a win and a no-decision in two starts versus the Cubs last year, one as a member of the Cleveland Indians and the other with the Philadelphia Phillies, and allowed a total of four runs over a combined 15 innings.

The accomplished left-hander will be trying to lengthen a string of 23 consecutive scoreless innings by Seattle pitchers, a streak that began in Saturday's 5-1 triumph over Cincinnati.

Randy Wells will oppose Lee this evening and will be out to put an end to a frustrating nine-start winless streak in which he's been dealt five losses and four no-decisions. The second-year right-hander did pitch well enough to win his last time out, however, after limiting Oakland to a pair of runs and striking out six over seven innings this past Thursday. He did not get a decision in an eventual 3-2 Chicago victory.

Wells, a surprise 12-game winner as a rookie for the Cubs last season, had compiled a 3-0 record with a 3.45 ERA in five April starts. Since then, however, he's posted an 0-5 mark with a lackluster 5.89 ERA and has given up five runs or more four times. This will be his first-ever meeting with the Mariners.

In four road starts this season, Wells has a 2-2 record with a 4.08 ERA.

The Cubs are making their second-ever visit to Seattle with this series, having taken two of three tilts from the Mariners at Safeco Field back in 2002. Chicago also won two of three from Seattle at Wrigley Field during the 2007 season.