Ultimately, keeping a comfortable lead in the AL West race with just nine games left was of foremost importance to Adrian Beltre.
But getting the better of friend and former teammate Felix Hernandez wasn't far behind.
"It was nice because he's always talking smack to me. We talk smack back and forth and he got my number," Beltre said. "I told him all I wanted to do was take him deep and I did it so I was yapping back to him."
Beltre got to Hernandez on Sunday, hitting a two-strike pitch for a two-run homer in the fourth inning and propelling the Texas Rangers to a 3-0 win over the Seattle Mariners.
Beltre lined his 27th homer of the season into the left field bullpen, then playfully jawed with Hernandez (14-13) as he approached home plate. It was just Beltre's second hit of the three-game series, both home runs.
And it was just his second career hit off the Mariners ace. Beltre had one single in eight previous at-bats and four strikeouts.
"You can't miss. The thing about Felix, playing with him, playing behind him, he's nasty," Beltre said. "He don't leave many pitches over the heart of the plate and his ball moves all over the place so it's not easy to square him up."
While Beltre's homer was the key offensive blow, Texas starter Matt Harrison was even more impressive. Harrison (13-9) won his third straight start, striking out a career-high nine in 6 2-3 shutout innings.
It was an important victory for Texas, remaining 4½ games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West after the Angels beat Baltimore earlier Sunday. After an off day Monday, the Rangers open a three-game series in Oakland.
The goal is simple for the Rangers: make sure the division race is sealed by the time they get to Anaheim to close the regular season with a three-game series.
"We haven't blinked. There is baseball to be played and we're going to play our game," Michael Young said. "So far, so good. We just want to keep it up."
With Harrison winning his 13th game, the Rangers became the first AL team since 1977 to have five pitchers with at least 13 victories. In the last 30 years only three teams have accomplished that feat, all in the National League.
Harrison allowed six hits and walked a pair, and took advantage of the strikeout-prone Mariners. Seattle batters have struck out at least nine times in nine of the past 10 games. Over those 10 games, Seattle has struck out 120 times.
"Going up against that guy you know it's always tough," Harrison said of facing Hernandez. "You just try and keep the game close and make your pitches and try and stay in the game as long as possible."
Only once did Seattle advance a runner to third base against Harrison and that came in the seventh inning. Harrison left with two outs after Ichiro Suzuki's infield hit glanced off Harrison's glove. Suzuki's 173rd hit of the season loaded the bases for Luis Gonzalez, who had doubled off Harrison in his previous at-bat.
Instead of risking it, Rangers manager Ron Washington went to Koji Uehara. The move worked as Uehara struck out Luis Rodriguez to end Seattle's best scoring chance.
Josh Hamilton robbed Mike Carp of a homer with a leaping catch at the wall in left to end the eighth inning and Neftali Feliz picked up his 28th save in 34 chances, pitching the ninth.
Beltre was one of Hernandez's closest friends when Hernandez first made the jump to the majors and Beltre was with the Mariners. Instead of pitching conservatively, Hernandez went right at Beltre with the 0-2, two-out fastball, and Beltre got him.
"(It's) always, always going to be like that," Hernandez said of the smack talk with his friend. "He got me with his bat today and we'll get another one in Texas."
Hernandez, the reigning AL Cy Young winner gave up nine hits and struck out five but lost his second straight decision. It was also his third loss this season against Texas.
Texas nearly had another homer in the third inning when Ian Kinsler hit a shot down the left-field line. Third base umpire Brian Gorman initially ruled it a two-run homer, but the call was overturned on video review.
Texas added an insurance run in the sixth when Kinsler led off with a single and scored on Elvis Andrus' double down the left-field line. Andrus had three hits and extended his season-high hitting streak to 12 games.
Notes: Texas is 12-4 vs. Seattle this season with three games left in Texas next weekend. ... Seattle 3B Chone Figgins will not play again this season with a hip flexor injury, manager Eric Wedge said. ... Seattle will make a detour to Cleveland for a makeup game on Monday. The game was one of two makeups after the Indians and Mariners were rained out on May 14 and 15. Seattle then opens a three-game series in Minnesota on Tuesday. ... LHP Charlie Furbush will start for Seattle against the Indians. He is just 2-6 in eight starts since coming over in late July in a trade with Detroit. ... Sunday was the first time since July 31 most of a Mariners game has been played with the Safeco Field roof closed. It was closed in the top of the first inning on Sunday after closing in the eighth inning of Saturday's game.