By Rob Shore, The Sports Xchange
SEATTLE — Cole Hamels admits it is hard to explain why he historically pitches well in September and October. Maybe it’s the feel of the cooler air.
Whatever the reason, the Texas Rangers left-hanger put the chill on the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night.
Hamels was nearly untouchable for eight innings, and Carlos Gomez returned to the starting lineup with a two-run double as the Rangers defeated the Mariners 4-2 to complete a three-game sweep at Safeco Field.
“When you do get into September, you kind of do see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Hamels said. “That’s when you kind of make your push. That’s just something I’ve always had.”
Texas (76-76) won its fourth straight and is tied with the Los Angeles Angels, 2 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins in the chase for the second American League wild card.
Seattle (74-79) took its season-worst sixth consecutive loss and dropped five games out of the final AL playoff spot.
With the Mariners bringing in the AL front-running Cleveland Indians for their home finale this weekend, it is not going to get easier anytime soon.
“We’re not mathematically eliminated yet,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “I know it doesn’t look great right now.”
Hamels (11-4) gave up one run on three hits and two walks, striking out eight. It was a huge effort on a night when the Rangers’ bullpen needed a rest after being heavily used in the first two games of the series.
“We’ve seen this so many times before out of him,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “Situations like this, where it’s a big-time start, we were limited on the back end of the bullpen, really. So he stepped up and delivered.”
Gomez gave Hamels some run support early, touching Seattle southpaw James Paxton for two runs in the first inning to get Texas in front. With the way Hamels pitched, that was more than enough.
Texas got to the Mariners’ relievers as well.
Rangers slugger Adrian Beltre added to the Rangers’ tally with his 17th homer, a solo shot off Dan Altavilla in the sixth inning. Former Mariner Shin-Soo Choo chipped in with his 20th homer, a solo blast off Emilio Pagan in the seventh.
The Mariners finally got to Hamels in the seventh inning when Nelson Cruz went deep for his 35th home run, a shot that cut the Rangers’ lead to 4-1.
Robinson Cano added a solo homer in the ninth off Texas reliever Keone Kela, his 22nd home run of the season and 300th of his career.
“It’s a phenomenal accomplishment,” Servais said of Cano’s milestone blast. “He’s a special, special talent. It’s been a grind for him in the second half.”
Kela finished up for his second save of the season.
Paxton (12-5) went 3 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and four hits while walking two and striking out four. He threw 73 pitches in his second start since returning from a pectoral strain.
Any Seattle hopes that Paxton would arrest the team’s September slide got off to a rough start in the first inning. Choo, Elvis Andrus and Beltre rapped consecutive singles with one out, and Gomez cashed in with a two-out, two-run double that deflected off Kyle Seager at third base into foul territory.
“I’m sure it’s a play Kyle feels he should make,” Servais said. “It’s a hard one-hopper right at him, big play in the game, obviously. … Early in the game, you’ve got to make the play.”