Time is starting to run out in the AL wild card race.
The Seattle Mariners got a bit of a boost with the return of Felix Hernandez in a 10-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday night that extended a three-game win streak.
"After losing the first game of the series here, kind of regrouping, understanding where we were at was important," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "I thought our urgency, our intensity level was right on point the last three nights."
Nelson Cruz went 4 for 4 with a home run and Kyle Seager hit a two-run homer as Seattle remained 3½ games behind Minnesota for the second AL wild card with 15 games remaining.
"It's exciting to see everybody, not only with the patience that we go up there and battle," Cruz said. "It's nice to see everybody on the same page."
Texas entered the game one-half game behind Seattle in the wild card race and fielded a surprise lineup looking for a spark from injured veterans Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli.
One night after making an unexpected appearance as a pinch hitter Beltre was batting fourth as the designated hitter. This was just two weeks after suffering a Grade 2 strain in his hamstring and he was expected to miss at least four weeks, likely the remainder of the season.
Beltre, who joined the 3,000-hit club this season, went 1 for 3 with a single and was replaced by a pinch runner in the seventh inning.
Napoli is dealing with a stress reaction in his lower right leg and is playing through pain. General manager Jon Daniels said Wednesday the Rangers would have to manage his playing time, but Napoli was in the lineup and playing first base Thursday. He went 0 for 2.
Texas departs on nine-game trip with its season on the line.
"We've been punched in the mouth," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "We're not out. We're going to play to the end."
Hernandez made his first start since being put on the disabled list with right shoulder bursitis on Aug. 5. He was on a pitch count and threw 54 pitches, allowing three hits and striking out three in 3.2 innings.
"It was good, man. It was fun," Hernandez said. "Didn't try to do too much, trying to get through 50 pitches, out there as long as I can."
Andrew Albers (5-1) pitched the final five innings and allowed three hits.
Hernandez had an early lead to work with when Seager hit a two-run home run in the second. Three innings later Yonder Alonso hit a bases-loaded double to give the Mariners a 5-1 lead.
Alonso's bases-clearing hit was the final batter for Andrew Cashner (9-10). The Rangers starter allowed six hits, five runs, and walked five in 4.1 innings.
"I didn't command my fastball. I'm not very good when I don't do that," Cashner said. "Going back and watching video after the game, my hips were flying open and I was flying open with my front side. Small adjustment to fix."
Seattle pushed the lead to 9-1 during a 34-minute sixth inning that featured 50 pitches and 10 batters.
Rougned Odor hit a three-run homer in the seventh to cut the lead to 9-4 before Cruz homered off the foul pole in the bottom half of the inning.
Rangers: OF Carlos Gomez has resumed batting practice but is still dealing with a high right ankle sprain. He's progressing as expected, but still struggling with mobility.
Mariners: LHP James Paxton (12-3) will make his first start after being placed on the DL on Aug. 11 with a strained pectoral muscle.
Rangers: RHP Nick Martinez (3-6) will make his first start since Aug. 31 against Houston. Martinez has worked as a relief pitcher in September and last made an appearance on Sept. 10 against New York.