Mariners-White Sox Preview

Nelson Cruz would be enjoying a second straight stellar offensive season a lot more if the Seattle Mariners were winning.

As Cruz looks to build on another strong performance, the visiting Mariners try for a third straight victory Thursday night against the Chicago White Sox.

After setting career highs for homers (40) and RBIs (108) with Baltimore in 2014, Cruz is batting .321 and increased his major league-leading home run total to 39 with one of three hits in Wednesday's 8-2 victory over Oakland. Though Cruz could make a case for the AL MVP, his immediate focus is to help Seattle (59-68) string together some needed victories and make a serious run in the final month of the season.

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"Like I said, I just play my game and whatever happens, happens,'' said Cruz, who is batting .370 with 18 home runs and 29 RBIs in his last 33 games. "If I got lucky enough to be considered (for the MVP), I'm blessed, but if not, I'm here to play games and win games and that's the only thing I care about.

"I look at the wins. That's my goal."

Sitting 6 1/2 games out of the AL's final wild-card spot with seven teams ahead of them - including Chicago (59-66) - the Mariners face a daunting task but have won three of the last four. They can win three straight for a second time this month.

However, the Mariners must improve on the mound after yielding 23 runs while dropping two of three to the White Sox last weekend.

Manager Lloyd McClendon has replaced Vidal Nuno in the rotation with Roenis Elias (4-6, 4.22 ERA), who since late June has spent most of his time in Triple-A Tacoma. The left-hander gave up three runs and struck out seven in six innings of a 4-0 loss at Oakland in his most recent major league start July 2.

He then went back down to the minors and has made one relief appearance since being recalled Sunday.

"(Elias is) a starter, not a bullpen guy," McClendon told MLB's official website. "Nuno is a swing guy. He may start again."

Elias went 1-1 with a 5.91 ERA last season against the White Sox, who have dropped three of the last four after managing six hits in Wednesday's 3-0 defeat to Boston.

''We just have to keep fighting," Chicago ace Chris Sale said. "It's nothing in particular. We just have to keep fighting and keep our heads up.''

Melky Cabrera had half of Chicago's hits, giving him five in the last two contests after going 1 for 10 at Seattle.

Rookie Carlos Rodon (5-5, 4.22) allowed six hits, four walks and three runs - one earned - in seven innings of Saturday's 6-3, 10-inning victory at Seattle. The left-hander is 1-1 with a 1.23 ERA in his last three starts.

"I think for any young guy the later you get into the year and him being in here, you're always careful to watch it and see what the workload is and where he's at," manager Robin Ventura said. "I think as of right now he's only gotten better."

Cruz went 1 for 3 with a double and walked against Rodon.