Since coming off the disabled list at the end of June, Doug Fister has struggled to avoid the big inning.
When he got in trouble Sunday, he buckled down and held the first-place Texas Rangers at bay.
"He gave up some hits, but I always like to think hits don't beat you, runs beat you, and I thought he did a nice job minimizing the damage and making some big pitches to get out of innings," Mariners interim manager Daren Brown said.
Texas' magic number remained six for clinching its first division title since 1999. The Rangers have a nine-game cushion over Oakland, which beat Minnesota 6-2.
Fister gave up four consecutive hits in the sixth, but the Rangers managed only one run. Vladimir Guerrero was thrown out by Ryan Langerhans attempting to advance to second on a single off the left-field wall. Nelson Cruz then homered to give Texas a 1-0 lead.
"If I knew (Cruz) was going to hit a bomb right there I'd have told (first base coach) Gary (Pettis) to throw a rope around him and hold him there," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Ian Kinsler and Mitch Moreland followed with singles to put runners on the corners with one out. But Kinsler was thrown out at home on a grounder to third by Matt Treanor, and Fister got Julio Borbon on another grounder to end the inning.
"It's pretty much just working the ball back down in the zone for him," Brown said. "From that point on, he did a nice job making pitches and getting out of the inning. I think some of it's just buckling down a little bit and making pitches. In that situation, he needed to."
Fister (6-12) had one of the best ERAs in the AL before landing on the disabled list June 6 with right shoulder fatigue. Since returning, he has shown flashes of his early-season form except for that one big inning each game when he gives up a handful of runs.
"There were times when you have to slow down and you have a couple runners on, you take a couple breaths and get back and go to work," Fister said.
David Aardsma issued a leadoff walk to pinch-hitter Chris Davis in the ninth but held on for his 31st save.
The Rangers had runners in scoring position in three of the first five innings, but couldn't come up with a clutch hit.
"Early in the game we had some chances we just didn't cash in," Washington said. "Fister made the pitches in those situations when he had to."
Chone Figgins singled in the sixth on a ball that deflected off second base and crossed up shortstop Elvis Andrus. Franklin Gutierrez doubled to left field, scoring Figgins from first after the relay to the plate got away from catcher Matt Treanor.
Langerhans tripled down the right-field line in the seventh and scored on a sharply hit single by Josh Wilson. Langerhans went 2 for 3 and drew a 12-pitch walk from Hunter in his first start in a week.
Hunter (12-4) kept Seattle's anemic offense in check through the first five innings. He allowed just two hits and didn't let a runner into scoring position until Gutierrez's double.
"We just couldn't get the big hit to score runs today," Kinsler said. "Yesterday we scored a bunch of runs. Today we put a bunch of guys on base, we just couldn't get the big hit to put us over the top."
NOTES: Cruz extended his hitting streak to 11 games. ... Seattle C Guillermo Quiroz was 1 for 3 in his first start since being called up Tuesday from Triple-A Tacoma. His last major league appearance was June 14, 2009, against Colorado.