For a third straight night Thursday, the Mariners pummeled the Texas Rangers by rolling to a 10-4 victory that included an encouraging start from Felix Hernandez and production throughout the lineup.
The Mariners pulled themselves back over .500 at 74-73 by winning for the fifth time in seven games.
They scored at least eight runs for a third straight game at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, which is something they’ve only done one other time in their 41-year history.
None of it is going to matter if they don’t get some help.
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The Mariners, who have just 15 games remaining, and remain 3 1/2 games behind Minnesota in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth. The Twins had a walk-off victory over Toronto.
"We’ve got to take care of ourselves," said first baseman Yonder Alonso, who three-run double in the fifth inning extended the lead to 5-1. "We want to have a lot of fun but, at the end of the day, we’ve got to lock it in with a sense of urgency."
There was much to like.
Hernandez gave up one run in 3 2/3 innings in his first start since July 31 before Andrew Albers (5-1) continued his career renaissance by pitching the final five innings in a piggyback arrangement.
"Felix threw strikes," manager Scott Servais said. "That was the big thing. Get them in swing mode to keep the pitch count in check and to get as much out of him as we could. I was hoping for three innings. We got a little bit more than that."
Cruz went 4-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs. Alonso had three hits in all, while Kyle Seager extended his hitting streak to 11 games and hit his sixth homer in 10 games.
It was Seager’s two-run shot in the second inning against Texas starter Andrew Cashner (9-10) that opened the scoring.
Texas got one run back later in the inning after Robinson Chirinos’ one-out grounder up the third-base line eluded Seager for a double that moved Joey Gallo to third. Rougned Odor followed with a sacrifice fly.
Hernandez exited after Gallo’s two-out double in the fourth pushed his pitch count to 54. Ryan Garton got the final out in the inning.
The Mariners took command with a three-run fifth that knocked out Cashner and turned the game into a rout with a four-run sixth inning against three Texas relievers.
***King looks sharp: Hernandez’s return to the rotation couldn’t have gone much better. He gave up three hits and one slightly tainted run in 3 2/3 innings before reaching his pitch-count limitation.
The Mariners planned to limit Hernandez to roughly 50 pitches in his first outing since a second bout with shoulder bursitis forced him to the disabled list after a July 31 start at Texas.
Hernandez threw 39 of his 54 pitches for strikes, struck out three and didn’t walk a batter. Barring any setbacks, he should get three more starts before the regular season ends.
***Cruzing in new territory: Cruz reached base five times by going 4-for-4 in addition to being hit by a pitch. He had two doubles, and RBI single and a home run off the right-field foul pole.
His two RBIs boosted his league-leading total to 109, which also established a career high. Cruz had 108 in 2014 while playing for Baltimore.
It also marked the 11th time in his career that he had at least four hits in a game, and the 10th time that he’s had three extra-base hits in a game. Cruz has one five-hit game in his 13-year career.
***Three times 80: When Mitch Haniger started in right field, the Mariners became the first club since the 1969 Kansas City Royals to have three rookies start at least 80 games in the outfield.
Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia made their 113th and 95th outfield starts in Thursday’s series finale against the Rangers.
Those 1969 Royals included a future Mariners connection in Lou Piniella, who started 125 games in the outfield and was voted as the American League’s Rookie of the Year. Pat Kelly started 106 games, and Bob Oliver started 89.
If the Haniger starts 10 of the final 15 games in the outfield, as seems likely, the Mariners will join the 1954 Philadelphia Athletics as the only clubs to have three rookies start at least 90 games in the outfield since 1913.
Those Athletics, in their final year in Philly, got 113 outfield starts from Bill Renna, 97 from Vic Power and 91 from Bill Wilson. The franchise moved to Kansas City in 1955 and remained there 13 years before moving to Oakland.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners